Under the radar: Port O'Brien

Shane Gilchrist presents a special Summer Times selection of albums that, although obscure, are worth exploring.

Today: North American outfit Port O'Brien twist folk and rock into some interesting shapes on their album All We Could Do Was Sing.

Who: Port O'Brien began as a folky duo comprising Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin, who later added a rhythm section and in 2007 released a compilation of previously self-released songs titled The Wind and The Swell.

When acclaimed songwriter M. Ward named Port O'Brien his "favourite new band", doors started opening, the band performing with Rogue Wave, Bright Eyes, the Cave Singers and Modest Mouse.

About the album: Recorded in San Francisco, All We Could Do Was Sing is diverse yet cohesive.

Lush string arrangements bump up against raw electric guitar, percussive banjo, even pots and pans as the band members scream, chant and croon their way through 13 tracks that cover a range of topics, from Pierszalowski's time aboard his father's salmon fishing boat in Alaska to issues of isolation and settling down.

Highlights: Pigeonholed says it all, really: "When the clothes seek out the music; then the music has to wait", Pierszalowski lamenting the ethos (or lack of) among some of his musical peers; I Woke Up Today mixes a teenage party chant of the sort that that hasn't been heard since the Violent Femmes sang about blisters in the sun; Stuck On A Boat revels in the glory of a simple electric guitar riff before glistening strings arrive.

For those who like: The Velvet Underground.


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