FANNO CREEK Singin’ songs about outer space.

WHEN FANNO CREEK'S two guitarists/vocalists—Quinn Mulligan and Evan Hailstone—harmonize on a song from their new album, Monuments, it stops me in my tracks. If just for a moment, it feels like everything makes sense. This response might seem counterintuitive, because the Portland band's lyrics touch on heavy topics like life, death, and the desire to flee Earth in the search for a better life. But in spite of these overwhelming and possibly depressing topics, Fanno Creek's songs remain upbeat and melodic—and wholly characteristic of the trio's music.

Rounded out by drummer Dane Brist, Fanno Creek's first full-length (on Portland label SoHiTek Records) is a shining culmination of years of songwriting. Mulligan says, "We've been working on some of these songs for four years, but never had the money to work in the studio. We took the time to develop a full recording and get it to a point where we're happy with it."

Like their prior EPs, these songs share themes of social pressures, morality, and human struggles, but Monuments offers a more contemplative and cohesive story. Mulligan says, "The song 'Dead Wrong' in particular is about being abducted by aliens, but the main theme is basically that we're destroying this planet, [and] people are really poor and unhappy. This record is a little more playful in perspective—outer space is kind of the original home of everything that makes us up."

Brist adds, "At first I thought the song was about aliens in spaceships, but when it wraps up, you see that it's an outside perspective on all the messed-up stuff that happens right here in our world."

Monuments' breezy folk-rock has a captivating immediacy and flow, and Fanno Creek's poetic, melodic songs possess a newfound patience and sonic integrity. The band spent more time in the studio, tweaking and arranging songs in a way that they didn't have the opportunity to do previously; their effort is well rewarded.

"We've been wanting to do the record this way since the beginning," says Hailstone. "We've always been huge fans of classic albums that you sit down with and listen to in their entirety. On this record, you can hear the lyrics, and you're forced to pay attention to them. The album takes its time, and you have to take time with the album."