When our daily horizon is speckled with half-built condos and the looming silhouettes of skeletal construction cranes, sometimes it seems like the whole world is moving to Portland. All those years spent touting our city—with its blossoming art scene, sludgy cups of coffee, and houses under $200,000—have finally drawn the attention of the rest of the country. So amid the influx of Californians struggling with the pronunciation of Ory-gun and Couch Street, it's easy to forget that people actually leave here too. Amy Annelle did. She packed up the Places and headed south to Austin, Texas.
Having just spent an eardrum-damaging week in Austin, I can see why she did it. Their PBR is Shiner, Stumptown is Flightpath, and instead of getting drunk in an inner tube on the Sandy River, they do that on the Guadalupe River. I'm sure it's nothing personal. People (even musicians) bid farewell to our city daily, and the bright side to Annelle's departure is the good music that is a result of her relocation to the Lone Star State.
Last year's Songs for Creeps was a dramatic exit from her Hush Records days of soft vocals and the lightly strummed guitars of a musician who seemed to view life through rain-streaked basement windows. Creeps is, well, creepy at times, as it shuffles about like a cursed spirit, a doomed voice lost in a void of dead air and negative space.
The slow build and eventual pileup of "The Natural Arc" is uncomfortable at first, slowly winning you over on sheer fright alone, as Annelle whispers, "Unless you lay with me, you won't know what I mean." It's like a lover's farewell whisper and final soft kiss, before she smothers you with a pillow.
The Places have always been far too dark for the standard troubadour waltzes, with the usual narcissistic lyrics of predictable heartbreak and that open-mic night desperation. So maybe a move south—to a city where the sun makes daily appearances and you don't need to place sheets of clear plastic over your windows come wintertime—is just what some of us need. It worked for Annelle and the Places.