CD Reviews: New Music From Weinland, Skeletons With Flesh on Them

Weinland Breaks in the Sun (Badman)John Adam Weinland Shearer deals in metaphor and moods. The lead singer of the Portland band Weinland writes songs filled with images of empty rooms and one-sided conversations. It's what made Demersville, the band's 2006 release, so unshakeable. On the opening track, "Piles of Clothes," Shearer lives among laundry "he can't even manage to fold" because he's crumbling from the disappointment of lost love.Those beautiful images are everywhere on Breaks in the Sun, Weinland's newest and most musically diverse release—like the empty bottles "all in a row like they might fall/painting pictures of us all" on "People Like You," a song about shattered expectations. Other tracks, like "I'm Sure It Helps," are told almost exclusively in coded language.But the same thing that made both Demersville—the first band-backed album from Shearer—and 2008's La Lamentor so haunting doesn't always work this time around. Slow strings, tinkling pianos, and brushed drums complemented the near-whisper of Shearer's voice. On Breaks in the Sun, those instrumentals are sometimes misplaced and sound too jangly. "Autumn Blood," for example, features overpowering keyboards and heavy guitars. But it's on songs like "I Feel Wasted" and "Piano Hymn," which both feature a clear, sad voice over a few instruments, that Shearer's emotions are palpable, rather than just hidden behind a musical cloud. PAIGE RICHMONDSkeletons With Flesh on ThemAll the Other Animals (self-released)Given their creepy-sounding name, Seattle-based quartet Skeletons With Flesh on Them should be churning out thrashing death metal. Except the band's music is quite the opposite of the images its name may imply. These skeletons spent the past three years crafting an impressive brand of finely tuned power pop, and their hard work paid off with their freshly released LP, All the Other Animals.The band's debut full-length, and only their second release to date (after 2007's The Fish Don't Mind EP), Animals is a well-rounded effort that shows considerable potential and artistic range: You've got your uptempo pop ("Ten Times"), guitar-driven rock ("Power Cords"), and mellower ballads ("Squinting Towards the Light"). Although singer Scott Roots' delivery is closer to Ben Folds than to Isaac Brock, the jangly guitars and barking vocals of "Not What We're Designed For" could almost pass for a Modest Mouse B-side. His lyrics often find him in dark places; the crawling "Longer Chain" opens with "We're not dead, but we're sure trying," yet the band's diverse instrumentation makes that morose mindset an afterthought. The record's 13 tracks are littered with interesting instrumental choices ranging from saxophone and piano to trumpet, glockenspiel, and singing saw. Although the latter two instruments get cool points, it's the horns that are most impressive, bringing depth to the title track and to the quirky "Closed Systems."Although sonically SWFoT has recognizable influences, the band carries an identity and songwriting tone of its own. Once they fully embrace these, they'll have an even better foundation for adding fresh entries to the canon of local rock. TRAVIS HAY

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