How spoiled are we in this town? A record like the new Greetings from Area Code 207 Vol. 8 can come out and it's like: Big Fuckin' Deal.
Thirty-one tracks? Two discs? Everything of national quality and many of the songs actually unreleased tracks from national recording artists? Eh.
We've got Ray LaMontagne being the background for a whole episode of Parenthood (and being a regular in the Billboard Top 5). Sparks the Rescue winning awards from MTV. Spose being awesome right to the top of the iTunes charts and Universal Republic. Phantom Buffalo getting signed by a French label. Brenda being handpicked by Wilco to play their Solid Sound festival and then with Holy Boys Danger Club, Marie Stella, and four other bands rocking the CMJ Festival in New York. Kurt Baker and the Leftovers touring Europe repeatedly.
It's time we acted like we've been somewhere. We don't need some compilation to prove there's a bunch of terrific music being made in Portland.
Except that, of course, GFAC Vol. 8 is awesome. Spose's "Pop Song"? It's a huge hit waiting to happen, a post-modern ringing indictment of the music industry: "The kids want hits/They don't give a shit about the rhymes you spit/They just want a nice beat/That they all can ride to/With a chorus catchier than swine flu/times two." But the best is pair of choruses, first "we want you to write a pop song," like Weezer on steroids, then "make it sound like this," as though Spose is saying, "Yeah, I can do that stupid pop-hop bullshit anytime. It's easy. But I don't want to do that."
Or, as he puts it: "I'd rather have my wrist slit than sound like every other fucking singer in the business."
Also, so much for GFAC being pegged as a roots compilation, right? Just as good as Spose's take is Paranoid Social Club's "White Trash," a hilarious send-up featuring Thommy, ending up being some kind of cross between Kid Rock and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
But roots remain close to compiler Charlie Gaylord's heart. It's pretty cool to hear the return of Jon Nolan, whose "Things I Never Said" is so naked and stripped-down and desperate and moody: "Tell the children that their daddy was a good man." And what is that trumpet doing in Sara Cox's "Wallet Size"? Goddamn it's good. I'm now legitimately freaking out about the possibilities of the next long-awaited and much-completed full-length.
Steve Jones does a Joe Cocker-style vamp. Grand Hotel has '80s Mick Jagger swagger. Rustic Overtones debuts piano-flavored R&B. There are new tracks from the Coming Grass, the Lucid, and Darien Brahms that are all excellent.
Volume 8 is a veritable firehose — hard to consume in even five sittings. But make sure you make it to the end of the second disc. The new track from Slaid Cleaves, "Cry," is everything you'd hope for if you've followed his career. It's touching and smart and old-timey country, with haunting vocals that sound a little like they were recorded in a submarine.
Yes, GFAC is back, celebrating its 10th anniversary, and it's still the best stocking stuffer a music-lover could ask for.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
GFAC 207, VOL. 8 | Released by Cornmeal Records | cornmealrecords.com