It's back. After three years of hiatus, Charlie Gaylord has brought the Greetings from Area Code 207 franchise back to its string of album releases with Volume 9, which ought to be available in Bull Moose by Thanksgiving week. How long has it been? Five of the 15 bands on Volume 8 are no longer.
The 33-track — well, assuming that Paranoid Social Club team-up with Spose actually makes its way to Gaylord before pressing — comes at an interesting time in Portland, with the Big Easy shuttered, One Longfellow apparently saved at the last hour in a funding campaign, and a growing malaise among songwriters who wonder if there really is an audience for untested original material. What is in some ways the best of times, with a robust live-music scene fueled by great bands swinging through town and cover shows where’d you swear 1987 Prince had been teleported in, is also the “meh” of times, with Slainte surprising as one of the most progressive rooms, even if you’ve got to lean around a pole to see what’s going on, and a dearth of venues with distinctive local-music personality.
SPACE currently has two local-music shows on its web site before January 1. And one of them is Lady Lamb, November 30, which only half counts even if she is here on GFAC Volume 9 (with the Milkman’s Union). The other one, Waranimal on November 23, certainly would be out of place.
As with previous incarnations, you won’t find much heavy here, or much hip hop, so two of the most-active local genres are out. But you will find the best of Portland’s most mainstream fare, the tunes that might get heard nationally on Adult-Alternative format stations or have a chance in Europe, like Kurt Baker, who recently had a song on the Spanish version of The Voice.
His “Girls Got Money” is new to the world and reliably fun, with Baker’s vocals like two fingers pointing at you from the hip and all sorts of handclaps and sun-shiney backing vox. Listen for the laser keyboards in the bridge. The Other Bones have a Euro vibe to them, too, and their live version of “Bad in Goodbye,” with singer Loretta Allen’s straight brilliant “fuck you, goodbye” into a mid-song all-stop, is genuinely arresting. This is world-class stuff, as contemporary as anything Avicii is putting out, that’s for sure.
That track is from this summer’s best local show, the State Theatre extravaganza that featured the Bones opening for the Mallett Brothers, Spose, and Rustic Overtones, who all also have songs featured here. And sure, you’ve been able to download the song for free anytime you wanted from Soundcloud for the past few months, but that doesn’t mean the CD isn’t a decent delivery mechanism for a mix tape.
Ultimately, GFACs succeed and fail via Gaylord’s curation. Did he choose the Malletts’ “Farmer’s Tan” for a particularly good Nate Soule solo? Theodore Treehouse’s “Friendship Bracelet” because of its immaculate open and emotional build or because it’s one of their few at perfect radio length? The unreleased Spencer gem “Where Did All My Money Go?” because of the roots injection from Dark Hollow Bottling Company or because most Portland musicians can relate?