by Ethan Swan


Mon Dec 15

Crystal Ballroom

Pinback is always said to invoke, to construct slightly unreal or distant images--to conjure scenes of faraway places. Well, I've been to some of the places that Pinback took their song titles from, and I don't think the song "Lyon" has that much in common with the city. In fact, the warm, bittersweet dream of their music has a lot more to do with the city of Portland. There is an unnamable sadness to their songs run through with a gentle playfulness, just as cozy living rooms provide shelter from gray skies and endless rain.

The basic paradoxes of life in Portland feel clichéd and absurd until the moment you leave the city and miss them. Promising yourself a green springtime in exchange for months of soggy shoes and miserable bike rides is no solace until you have to live somewhere else with dead grass and dusty roads. Beauty doesn't always come at the price of sadness, but it's hard to feel otherwise in a city where Nick Drake and Cat Power refuse to leave CD players for months on end.

In other places, Pinback is seen as sad, delicate music. In Portland, their records feel like a familiar blanket. No one has trouble finding the beauty and movement in their songs. The soft melodies and layered arrangements simply become a part of life, as ubiquitous and widely accepted as the clouds and puddles. In one house in Northeast, the first Pinback CD served the same purpose as a necktie on the doorknob in college dormitories, signaling naked people behind the door. This isn't relegating their music to the background; it demonstrates the way in which Pinback has been married to all aspects of life.