“THE DOUBLE ALBUM”—considered by many to be a vestige of rock’s masturbatory past—is an affront to the modern music fan’s stroboscopic attention span. But the medium is experiencing something of a comeback in indie rock circles, from Titus Andronicus’ The Most Lamentable Tragedy and Tenement’s Predatory Headlights to Portland band Strange Ranger’s debut, Rot Forever—just three recent examples of critically acclaimed, punk-flecked rock albums that contain well over an hour’s worth of music.
The format’s staunchest detractors argue that virtually every double album could be whittled down to a superior, single LP, but these listeners miss the point. The most effective double albums—Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, Bruce Springsteen’s The River, the goddamned White Album—succeed precisely due to their intractable disregard for stylistic consistency. At worst, double albums are self-indulgent and onerously conceptual, but at best, they let an artist flex their creative musculature in ways that wouldn’t make sense in the context of a single LP.
Point Juncture, WA’s latest record, Me or the Party, isn’t just one of the best double LPs released in recent memory—it’s probably the best double album ever released by a Portland artist. Party is the first album from the hallowed indie band in half a decade, and it’s become something of our city’s Chinese Democracy, spoken about in low tones for the past two years by critics and members of the scene glitterati lucky enough to have heard rough cuts.
The group’s previous releases, 2008’s Heart to Elk and 2011’s Handsome Orders, were fairly straightforward guitar rock albums that evoked comparisons to Rilo Kiley and the more pop-minded outings from local peers the Thermals. Party sees the group expand its sonic palette considerably. Anthemic opener “Turing Shulgan” is an overview of the record’s textural expanse; it begins modestly, with drums, a droning organ, and an assemblage of auxiliary percussion, before blowing wide open into a cascade of dreamy vocals and interlacing guitars. It’s Spectorian in its amplitude, and irreducible by the sum of its elements.
There’s an unspoken finality at the heart of Me or the Party. Point Juncture, WA—like many Portland bands of their era—have a dilettantish appeal. They balked at being Portland’s “next big thing,” but those in the know have long considered them one of the city’s finest exports. Their defiant DIY fealty is reflected in Party’s cover art: 13 crudely illustrated portraits that bring to mind George Bush’s dog paintings. It’s an amusing contrast to the inherent bombast of a double album. Runtime aside, this is intimate art made in a time and place where the concept of “intimate art” is becoming increasingly rarefied. Me or the Party is a long, cathartic exhalation from a group that likely senses its hometown is losing touch with aspects of its culture—and it was well worth the wait.