Various Artists “PDX Pop Now! 2011″

Once again I get to review this compilation. Last year I reviewed it in June, which only means one thing: I’m way too behind. Since I didn’t comment on all 40 tracks last year, I won’t comment on all 41 this year. Thank goodness for precedent.
The Shivas do melodic indie pop the Portland way (how redundant is that) on “Gun in My Pocket.” The same style but with a fake Peter Murphy singing? O Bruxo does that on “De Colores.” I’m a fan. Or I guess now I just like it. Stupid Facebook.
“Alien Observer” by Grouper has haunting synths but isn’t depressing the way a traditional gothic song would be. Lovers fans rejoice: They’re well-represented here with “Boxer.” Yet another fine track from them. If you want traditional female-led R&B, “Baby What You Do to Me” by Reva DeVito is top notch.
Bright Archer sound better than Tasmin Archer on “Hidden Systems.” This one is a female-fronted ballad with a lot of piano.
The most fundamentally sound track is buried on the first disc. “Majoring in the Arts” by Blue Skies for Black Hearts has a strong chorus with backing vocals and guitar that connects the verses seamlessly. Very straightforward indie rock that hits on all cylinders.
“(Don’t) Panic” doesn’t sound like Portland to me, but regardless the Ascetic Junkies are in charge here. It’s got a Midwest female indie rock feel to it. The musical accompaniment is so strong that it’s easy to overlook the quality vocals that are also present.
The second disc leads off with Viva Voce. “Analog Woodland Song” sounds like Rilo Kiley. The chords aren’t the most inspired, just like Rilo Kiley, but the singing quality and mixing more than make up for it, just like — well, you see where I’m going with this.
If you want metal with a female singer, the comp even offers that. The appropriately named Witch Mountain sings the appropriately named “Veil of the Forgotten.” It’s exactly what you expect it to be.
Synthpop fans will appreciate “I Want You” by Sex Life. It’s modern in the sense that today’s synthpop is a bit of a throwback to 30 years ago. But it sounds like today’s renditions of the early ’80s, rather than the early ’80s themselves. Sort of like The Looney Tunes Show on Cartoon Network. You can tell.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra sound a lot like the Blue Skies for Black Hearts song, so if you liked that, you’ll like “Thought Ballune.” And not to be confused by the Viva Voce song, there is also a band called the Woodlands. “In the Dark on Monday” is to die for. It is more of a late-’80s synthpop song, and this indeed is my favorite era.
More of the haunting female vocals can be found on “Roan Wolf,” by Mojave Bird. This one doesn’t have the dark overtones of Grouper. Rather, it makes you think of Cocteau Twins. The following track is very similar as well. Blouse is a little more focused on the guitar, but “Into Black” still has a great sound.
Almost everything on the comp is fantastic. Once again the guys behind this have put the time into finding what truly deserves to be showcased.

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