No More Parachutes w/PUP, Phantom Family, Agents of ECCO; Slabtown, 1033 NW 16th
Aggrieved indie-rock nerds No More Parachutes' debut EP, the criminally under-discussed Old Man, is a power-pop pundit's fantasy. By combining the tight, angular leanings of new-wave forebears like Joe Jackson and XTC with the hyper-melodic sense and slacker air of There's Nothing Wrong with Love-era Built to Spill, the group does something few bands in Portland are doing: making compelling rock music. No More Parachutes' LP from earlier in the year, Frightening Situations, delivers and expands on the promise of Old Man, dialing back some of the cheesier aspects of its predecessor and showcasing refined songwriting chops—particularly the staggering, Ted Leo-ish opener "Instructions (Pour la Vie)" and the inescapably catchy "Coconut Strut." Also see My, What a Busy Week!
LVL UP w/Big Ups, Snow Roller, the Crash Engine, the Hague; Slabtown, 1033 NW 16th
The Tumblr generation's infatuation with seminal Midwest emo and Warped Tour pop-punk has given way, at least partially, to a renewed interest in straight-up '90s rock, evidenced by LVL UP. They're a quartet out of New York whose sophomore LP, Hoodwink'd, suggests an immense indebtedness to misunderstood post-grunge exemplars like the Gin Blossoms, Superdrag, and (gasp!) Everclear. There's a lot of subtle sonic and musical ground covered here, from Weezer-ish opener "Angel from Space" to "Hex," which sounds like a discarded, Tobin Sprout-penned Alien Lanes contribution, all the way to vaguely Beck-ish "I Feel Extra-Natural." While the group is far from an homage act, songs like "Annie's a Witch" and "Soft Power" really do sound like long-lost '90s radio hits, considerably scuzzed-up to remain palatable to the punks.