CHAIRLIFT, NITE JEWEL
RADIATION CITY, LEGENDARY OAKS
(Rontoms, 600 E Burnside) Radiation City took the local scene by storm with the release of last year's The Hands That Take You, first issued on the band's Apes Tapes cassette label and then given national re-release by Tender Loving Empire. That was a splendid debut, to be sure, but Rad City's new EP Cool Nightmare is even better, clearly showing that this is a band that knows how to make fantastically inventive music on a grand scale. Warbled musical themes wind their way in and out of each song, blending pop, Latin, exotica, soul, orchestral ornamentation, stunning harmony singing, and more—it's a sterling achievement from a band that's fearsomely capable of everything they've put their mind to. Cool Nightmare is unquestionably one of the year's best releases. NED LANNAMANN
HEARTLESS BASTARDS, DAVID VANDERVELDE, BRIAN LOPEZ
(Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie) On Valentine's Day, Heartless Bastards debuted their fourth album, Arrow, and a whole new sound. Gone are the pedal steel, banjo, and fiddle that were so central to 2009's The Mountain. In their place is solid, straightforward rock 'n' roll that gives equal sonic space to Erika Wennerstrom's astonishing vocals as it does to the guitars, drums, and bass. The stripped-down aesthetic is partially the responsibility of producer Jim Eno, AKA Spoon's drummer. Folk music only makes a brief cameo on "Low Low Low" (which sounds nothing like Flo Rida), just before the last and most rocking song on the album, "Down in the Canyon." Arrow is deliberately paced, unaffected, and yes, mature sounding. Here's hoping that this latest phase sticks for the long haul. REBECCA WILSON
DATURA BLUES, WAH WAH EXIT WOUND, RLLRBLL
(Valentine's, 232 SW Ankeny) If you're a musician, it's hard to hate a band like Wah Wah Exit Wound... but sometimes you just have to. They're too damn good at their instruments! It's not fair! This power trio from Seattle plays the most puzzling of prog rock as effortlessly as you puts a beer to your lips while lounging in your favorite chair on your day off. Even calling their music prog rock is just hiding it under a convenient umbrella. What's actually underneath is an unchartable amount of influences probably ranging from Immortal to Weather Report, all of which they somehow incorporate into each and every song. Tastefully. Wah Wah Exit Wound's music is so intricate and rhythmically nuanced it could give Rick Wakeman, or even Mozart, an inferiority complex. All right, maybe envy is a better word than hate. ARIS WALES
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