One Year Later: A Playlist
It’s been a year since the election. You know the story. Even though more people voted against him, we elected an NSFW president – Not Safe for Work, Not Safe for Women, Not Safe for the World. As much as we need escape from our national nightmare – I’m plowing through Robert Jordan’s 14-volume Wheel of Time series at the moment – we also need to acknowledge it, to think about how this happened, to feel our outrage and unearth our battered optimism. And no art form helps us process emotions better than music. Thankfully, Portland musicians have been making some motherfucking noise since last November. They addressed our new president both openly and satirically. They channeled their anger and refused to give up hope. They achieved catharsis and helped us listeners do the same.
So let’s reflect, but let’s not do so silently. Here’s a playlist of my favorite local tracks for the socially anxious and sonically adventurous.
— Joe Sweeney
- SeepeopleS – “The New American Dream”
Singer/songwriter Will Bradford’s band gleefully skewers the third-grade, toy-bashing mentality of our commander in chief in the guise of a pop-punk anthem.
“I wanna be the president / And kill everyone” is a chorus that captures the tenor of the time — sarcastic, alarmist, yet not at all far-fetched.
- Ben Shorr ft. Akrobatik – “Over the Bullshit”
Over a gritty harpsichord loop and some exhilarating golden-age scratching, these two gifted indie emcees go on about how realness matters more than money. Shorr’s first line: “I’ll never see a million dollars / That’s fine, I don’t need it.” Yes, there are people who still think this way. Thank God.
- Forget, Forget – “Year of Transition”
Just a stunner of a ballad from this ruminative synth-pop duo. “Roger back to the radio tower / During the calm between the storming,” sings Tyler DeVos. And with Patia Maule’s lush, shimmering synths keeping us aloft, we can believe that, eventually, the calm will become the norm.
- TheWorst – “Backwash”
In a year that’s felt like one long, nasty hangover, Brooke Binion captured the crushing self-loathing of an especially rough morning-after. Except she did it over searingly catchy neo-grunge riffs, resulting in a track that leaves us feeling spent, but healthy.
- KGFREEZE – “Insanity”
With every new 800-page fantasy novel I crack open, I think of this one-minute punk scorcher from Kyle Gervais. “I just need a minute to forget myself!” he screams over a calamity of guitar, bass and drums. Take that, 24-hour news cycle.
- Five of the Eyes – “Delta”
Amidst a thrilling hailstorm of pristinely executed prog-rock riffs, singer Darrell Foster bemoans an unrequited love (and perhaps a certain orange ethnocentrist?): “Only you can show me how / Vanity can drag us down / So you build a wall / Only to fall back into the water / Watch it carry you away.”
- Fat Knuckle Freddy – “Even Superheroes Brush Their Teeth”
No matter how divided we may feel from one another, we humans have a lot in common. Like the need for dental hygiene, or the serenity that comes from hearing an acoustic guitar played gorgeously.
- Cushing – “Assholes”
Chaotic, swirling guitars, sneering sing-speak vocals, and the kind of hardcore rallying cry I really needed to hear last spring: “When we finally hit the bottom / No one will be forgiven / We’ll put those assholes in their place.”
- Jeff Beam – “Something Came from Nothing”
If you feel the need to surrender to the malaise for a little while, cue up the title track of Jeff Beam’s excellent new EP. Full of lyrics about aging and feeling alone and exposed, this existential folk song fills the Elliott Smith-sized hole in my heart.
- Video Nasties – “Squirm”
This insanely catchy post-punk gem sounds like a demo that was shoved through Iggy Pop’s mail slot in 1981. But it’s about growing up in Maine in the 2000s and watching movies about entitled bastards. I wonder if they caught a certain cameo in Home Alone 2?
- The Very Reverend – “Leash”
The new single from broken-hearted stoner-metal band The Very Reverend is about how you don’t appreciate stability until it’s gone. Which explains why George W. Bush’s approval ratings are going up these days.
- Myles Bullen – “Death to the Old Way”
Rose-colored glasses were not in style in 2017. This rapper didn’t give a damn.
- Big Blood – “Our Love Will Still Be There”
If you don’t know what to believe in anymore, believe in the noise-rock family band of Colleen Kinsella, Caleb Mulkerin and their daughter Quinnisa. Their cover of an old Troggs nugget is proof: Big Blood is thicker than water.