Seepeoples are a band that cannot be defined. You could throw a few genre descriptors around — indie rock? Pop? Jam band? Psychedelic? — but all of those and none of those are appropriate. Nowhere in the Portland band’s 15-year history is that more true than on last year’s whopper of a double album, “Dead Souls Sessions,” and “Love,” an EP that came out late this summer, continues on that same trajectory. Each of these five tracks is a thoughtful, melodically dense little gem, showcasing first and foremost Will Bradford’s skills as a songwriter. Bradford wears his heart on his sleeve, lyrically, and his exceedingly capable bandmates offer up their sensitive arrangements, with shimmering guitars and vocal harmonies on songs like “Bent Lullaby,” or big, Radiohead-esque guitars on “Never Forget How To Run.” It makes you excited to hear what will come next.
This Bangor foursome’s new album is just as breezy and melodic as its first full-length album, “Take Your Time” — packed with two- and three-part harmonies, shimmering acoustic guitars and gentle yet danceable rhythms. Though in some ways Rotating Taps are a part of the wave of acoustic pop that’s so popular these days (Lumineers, The Head and the Heart), there’s a bouncier edge that belies that band’s professed love of Paul Simon, like the heartfelt album opener “The Beat Is For The Dancers” or the close duel harmonies of “Static,” the upbeat “The Power of a Rumor,” or the moody, keyboard driven “Faithful.” Co-lead singers Yuri Trusty and Sam Chase have been playing together for more than a decade, and their comfort level with each other shows. There’s a lot to enjoy here; it’s accessible, sweet-natured, radio-friendly pop that’s as fun to listen to as it is to see played live.
Right out of the gate, “Heatweaver” is a more brash, immediately funky successor to Portland ensemble Jaw Gems’ 2014 debut full-length, “Blades Plural,” replete with squelchy synths and guitar riffage straight out of the hip hop playbook. Though there are still a few of the woozy, atmospheric, Boards of Canada-esque interludes sandwiched in between the bangers, overall, “Heatweaver” is a dynamic listen. Opener “DaVinci” is a major highlight, as is the soulful “Sap Flow” and the Stevie Wonder-channeling “Studded.” For an album that’s entirely instrumental, there’s plenty to keep the energy levels up — tempos change from track to track, and nothing stays too ambient or too club-friendly for too long, as if it were a score to a dark, stylish film.
Listening to Portland singer-songwriter Lisa Victoria’s new album, “Deserts of Youth,” you get the somewhat uncanny feeling that you’re inadvertently listening to someone’s private performance; someone playing for themselves in their bedroom, quietly, gently and with great emotion. The utter spareness of the seven songs on this album is so overwhelming — just Victoria’s ghostly soprano and her finger-picked guitar on nearly every song — that it’s almost heartbreakingly intimate. Though there are seven tracks on “Deserts,” they tend to bleed into one another. All are slow, meditative and half-whispered, as if she was confiding her deepest feelings and secrets to the microphone, which also lends a kind of intensity to the album’s 40+ minutes. Victoria has had in the past year or two some higher profile attention for her music, and “Deserts of Youth” is a fitting foray into the national spotlight.
The outrageously talented Portland mandolin player and singer-songwriter Joe K. Walsh belongs amid the pantheon of great contemporary bluegrass players. On “Borderland,” his third solo album, that fact is just made ever more true, as he assembles some fantastic players from the bluegrass and folk worlds (including the equally excellent guitarist Courtney Hartman), and makes it all sound effortlessly easy. There’s a lot to love here, but for me, I’ve got to highlight “Never More Will Roam,” a zippy, rollicking song about a man who tried to fly to the North Pole in a balloon, the country-tinged “Innisfree,” a setting of Yeats’ ageless poem, the carefree “Pogo Big,” and “Pine Tree Waltz,” for purely personal reasons, as it’s a sweet, gentle love song to Walsh’s adopted state (he’s a Minnesota native). It’s as pretty and enjoyable a bluegrass album as Maine has produced in recent years.
Rotating Taps, Seepeoples and Lisa/Liza albums can be purchased on iTunes; Joe K. Walsh and Jaw Gems can be purchased on Bandcamp.