It's not a good week to be a local band presenting a new album to the masses. There is TBA. There is MusicfestNW. Hell, there is still summer. So it's easy for us media types to overlook a pair of Portland's most diverse and unique acts, both of which are sitting on new albums.
Lo-Fi Summer is the new—and final—album from Please Step out of the Vehicle. Following this week's performance (Sat Sept 6 at the Someday Lounge), the band will step out of the vehicle for one last time, splintering into various factions—including a rumored solo project for frontman Travis Wiggins. No better way to celebrate the band's all-too-brief run than by diving headlong into Lo-Fi, which gloriously kicks off with their finest track set to tape, "As the Days Drift...," which reads like a how-to guide for PDX summer living. Swimming? Check. Hating on your mindless day job? Yup. Grand declarations to live better? Of course ("What's the point of being and living if you're doing nothing, absolutely nothing at all?"). After that, the record proudly marches through a slew of influences ranging from the rigid pop quirk of early Violent Femmes ("Clawzzzzz"), the sloppy hiss of lo-fi noise ("Servants to their Lord"), and even the wondrous "Plane Crash," which feels like the ultimate in late night house party sing-alongs (an untapped genre in itself).
On the completely opposite end of the indie rock universe reside the Parenthetical Girls, the texturally rich and decadent chamber rock outfit fronted by Zac Pennington. A former word slave here at the Mercury, Pennington is right at home on Entanglements, a bold recording of staggeringly ambitious pop gems that swell and contrast with grand authority. Consider this the band's coming out party (every girl needs her cotillion, or at the very least, her Super Sweet 16), as Entanglements marks their debut for well-respected German imprint Tomlab, and the album's initial impact has been incredibly well-received. Much like any recording this wildly extravagant, their best moments smother the worst: The swooning "A Song for Ellie Greenwich," with its gorgeous pop hook and tempered blasts of horns, outshines the tail-end of the record—especially the closer, "This Regrettable End," which sounds likes a Disney production of "Parenthetical Girls on Ice"—which tends to drag on a bit too long.
Never ones to dabble in restraint—especially with a live show that is somehow both cuddly and confrontational—the Girls' album release performance (Sun Sept 7 at Leftbank, as part of the TBA festival) will feature the quartet backed by a musical army of string, woodwind, and brass players. The goal is to match the indulgent flair of the record, and should be, as Pennington puts it, "either really great, or a glorious disaster."