This Week in the Mercury

Monday, January 13, 2014

Music Monday! The Harmony Motel, Us Lights, Mandarin Dynasty & More

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 12:30 PM

It's Music Monday! Here's some great Portland music you may not have heard before.

The Harmony Motel have a new two-song single released today: "Straight to My Head" backed with "Dead Bird," available for free download (do it). Both tracks are exquisitely ornamented brain-pop, with enough dapples of light to work wonderfully on this uncharacteristically sunny January day. The Harmony Motel is the project of Stanton Hall, who also plays in the Zags, and these two studio confections were recorded with producer/engineer Jack Saturn (of the band Queued Up). This is classic pop songwriting with inventive arrangements and subtle but undeniable, earwormy hooks; it reminds me of the aptitude of British songsmiths like Paddy McAloon, Andy Partridge, Ray Davies, and the Brewis brothers (of Field Music). It other words, it's terrific. Hall says that the Harmony Motel is not really a live band, per se, but he will be playing a release show this Sunday, January 19 at the Corkscrew wine bar (1665 SE Bybee) with solo sets by his fellow bandmates in the Zags. More info here.

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Here's Us Lights, a newish dark-pop band from members of the Brothers Young and Hurtbird (among lots of other Portland bands). "Sometimes Smile" is an eerie but propulsive number that conjures an intricate spiral pattern like a spider's web. There's tons of atmosphere here, with muscly bass and cannon-like drums providing a sturdy foundation to the more ethereal, water-drop elements. Us Lights play this Friday night at Rotture on a bill with Pwrhaus and Coronation.
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Mike Sherk of Southern Californian outfit Mandarin Dynasty moved to Portland in July, and now the group has enlisted Dear Nora's Katy Davidson for the live lineup. Mandarin Dynasty's album Perpendicular Crosstalk is receiving a vinyl pressing from Trabuco Records—that comes out tomorrow—and the band will play a release show on Monday, January 20 at Valentine's. Take a listen to "Lap Steel Blues," a playful, sharp rocker that looks beneath the surface.

More Music Monday after the jump, including Souvenir Driver, the Moonshine, Rare Monk, and O Bruxo!

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Souvenir Driver continues their series of preview tracks from their upcoming Living Water album, due out in April. This month they're sharing "Jellyfish," which the band's Nate Wey says is "one is one of the darker, stranger, more psychedelic songs on the album." Like its title, the song's a slow, watery oozer with a little bit of a sting. The band has a Kickstarter up for the vinyl pressing of the album, which they're hoping will serve more as a pre-order for the album as opposed to a straight-up fundraiser. You can also learn more about the pre-order over on Bandcamp. Souvenir Driver plays this Wednesday night (January 15) at Bunk Bar with Miracle Falls and Charts.
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Michael the Blind's new ensemble the Moonshine is releasing its first album this Saturday, at a show inside the lovingly refurbished Alberta Street Pub. The album's called And Now... (shades of Python?), and was recorded largely live in the studio over the course of two days; a listen to the strummy sing-along of opening track "Never Know" (above) can provide an easy idea of how well the band's warm, joyous tones work in person. On Saturday, the Moonshine will play second on a bill that includes Renegade Stringband and Left Coast Country.
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Rare Monk's new song "Splice" rides a steady, almost drizzling beat that builds to a stormy, full-bodied conclusion. It's on the band's upcoming single, which is due out later this year on B3SCI Records. The Portland band shall be traveling down to Austin for this year's SXSW, and the unrestrained final section of this song will no doubt hold its own against the volume-onslaught of all the other bands in town.
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The last one for today is sort of an oldie (not really). O Bruxo may have gone the way of the dodo, but the band's final recording popped up online, courtesy of the band's Sam Humans. (O Bruxo in this iteration also includes Papi Fimbres, Jesse Johnson, and Scott Blais.) It's a shredded, trippy celebration that serves as a reminder of the band's live power. This recording dates from early 2013, and hopefully signals more to come.


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