My patient friend Alex Steininger has a pretty fine thing going out there in Portland, the sub-Seattle. He has his own record label, In Music We Trust, his own PR company of the same name; and, for consistency’s sake, a cool indie webzine of, you guessed it, the same name. All are worth checking out. Now.
Alex’s IMWT label has already put out 14 releases – where does the time go? – all in a melodic, often introspective alt-pop mode, with varying degrees of rock noise to balance out the sonic sweetness.
My favorite at the moment is the Damwells’ PMR + 1 (ie, Poor Man’s Record plus one bonus song), seven slices of tough melancholia that puts me in mind of one of my faves, Eels. Like E of the Eels, singer/songwriter Alex Dezen creates “rock with problems.”
“H.C.E” choogles along on a stately descending rhythm guitar progression, with some sweet, poignant surf-ish embellishment from from lead guitarist Dave Chernis. Social trouble for Alex: “I’ve never kissed a boy, but I’ve hit a girl” – you get the feeling not very hard, but brave words nonetheless in these PC times. “Here comes everyone” (H.C.E.), but Alex will never belong.
“While You Can” enters on an interesting backwards-guitar drone, “Have to Ask” confronts trouble with a more uptempo beat – it’s all tuneful and down-but-not-out in emotion.
The band’s site includes a tour schedule (NYC area and Arlington, VA in late March and early April), news (live radio broadcast on Seattle’s KEXP on 4/2), cool swag, reviews and interviews, and a download of “For My Own Good,” currently unreleased and featured in the first minute and a half of the Ashton Kutcher/ Brittany Murphy movie Just Married: damn-well worth your time.