Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Midday Show host Cheryl Waters, is “My Will Is Good” by Port O’Brien from their 2009 album Threadbare on TBD Records.
Earlier this month California natives Port O’Brien released their third full-length album, Threadbare, on TBD Records (Radiohead, White Rabbits). Quite possibly my favorite record of 2008 this follow-up to the highly acclaimed All We Could Do Was Sing (City Slang Records) sees new emotional movement in the Port O’Brien camp. Those of you impacted by the boisterous, fun-loving, free-spirited anthems of last year’s breakout will immediately notice a shift in tonality, pace and subject matter within the hushed walls of Threadbare. I did. In fact I’m almost certain that after the first listen I turned to Kate and said “this sounds so different... almost muffled.” Indeed the sounds nestled amongst the grooves of this latest effort seem uniformly confined by overcast skies and high tides. These new songs are wrapped inside the kind of introspection that walks hand in hand with unexpected sadness -- specifically the tragic loss of founding member Cambria Goodwin’s younger brother.
Described as a freeform process, the early stages of Threadbare’s sessions soon gave way to the solitude of life’s slower moments. Recorded in large part with San Francisco’s Jason Quever (Papercuts) the lion share of the record inhabits a space not much larger than the living room studio in which it’s tracks were laid. A longtime friend and tour-mate, Quever’s quiet contributions are palpable. He deserves a lot of credit for manning such a risky departure. While it may not soar to the erratic heights of its predecessor, Threadbare ratchets-up the humanity in a manner that solidifies it’s emotional impact and accessibility. Focused and deliberate Threadbare sheds the limitations of successful formulas while retaining the true essence of the band’s sound.
“My Will Is Good” is perhaps the apex of Threadbare’s likeness to last year’s All We Could Do Was Sing. The song -- while surrounded in sombre (and elegantly arranged) acoustics and cello fog -- finds Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin momentarily parting the clouds of loss with a beautifully softened burst of their uniquely of folked-up sing-along sound. All of the best bits are still here, kids: toe-tapping intro followed up with a wonderfully catchy beat; Pierszalowski’s newly reserved voice (really maturing nicely, think of Conor Oberst’s transition from Letting Off the Happiness to The Story Is In The Soil...) humming (not enough of this in the world, anyone can sing back-up here) and lyrics that make really make you think.
All this is a good sign for Van, Cambria and the rest of the boys: even with just three LP’s under their belts, Threadbare illustrates the band’s propensity for change. With change comes longevity. Sure All We Could Do Was Sing reached out, grabbed me by the neck and demanded my attention, but Threadbare... well, Threadbare is really more like the arm of a sincere old friend, setting you down on the crappy old couch for some catching up.
PS – see them live.
Here they are playing another song from Threadbare, called “Sour Milk/Salt Water,” live from The Woods in Portland during MFNW: