Little Star

Little Star

Like it or not, the Little Star story is a classic rock one. Born out of a dissolving relationship, baptized in manic bedroom recording sessions, and confirmed under the winking lights of Portland basement venues, Little Star embodies the rock dream of transfiguring sadness into pop gold.

We first heard of Little Star through the Romantic World of Little Star cassette self-release, a map for Daniel Byers’ inner tumult disguised as scrappy dreampop. Big Star’s exuberant melancholy, the Kinks’ crackerjack guitar work and the Cure’s winking macabre all lit the path through Daniel Byers’ little world. Now we have Being Close, an album that finds Byers enlisting the help of bassist, singer and songwriter Julian Morris and drummer John Value, transposing the coy synthesized instrumentation of Romantic World into a true power trio. “It has very aggressive moments, and it has more tender and sweet moments,” than the debut cassette, proclaims Morris. Byers takes care to note the influence of friends and fellow Portlanders Sioux Falls on the album’s brash sound.

Being Close is the sound Little Star “bringing the [Romantic World] out of the bedroom and into the live space,” says Value. The ten-song collection finds Byers and Morris, penning songs about transformation and transcendence—Dan’s songs about processing his breakup, Julian’s songs about his process of gender transition. The album might be about dissolution and finding oneself anew, but Byers carefully notes that the songs are really about “moving apart from people.” Is it a breakup album? “Well maybe it is, on accident.”

Songs like “Cheeseman” and “For Goth Easter” demonstrate the emotional breadth of Little Star. All of the songs are “about moving apart from people,” Byers explains. The rollicking “Cheeseman” details the painful drift between two friends, set over Bolan-esque chugging guitar chords. An honest-to-god guitar solo caps off the song, showcasing Byers’ sage-like (and Sage-like) fret heroics. And then there’s “For Goth Easter.” The Morris-Value-Byers trio have turned Romantic World’s emotional centerpiece into a Being Close’s first act showstopper, a breathless three-minute meditation on the power of rock music. Portland Mercury contributor Cameron Crowell has described seeing entire basements teary-eyed, singing along to every word of the song, and I’ve seen it happen, too, I swear to god.

Little Star recorded the bulk of Being Close live in a single eighteen-hour session at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios and mixed the rest of the album in the same house used to make Romantic World. Portland label Good Cheer Records is proud to release the album on TK FORMATS, available online and in stores on January 8.

Oh, Rose

While My Father Sleeps by the Olympia, Washington, based band Oh, Rose, tells the complex story of family, adversity, love, and friendship. In ten songs, the record bears the soul and shares the truths of the band’s frontperson and creative driver, Olivia Rose, while also serving as an homage to Rose’s mother, who passed away in January of 2017. It is Rose’s life’s story, told under the banner of a story her mother was never able to finish.

“‘While My Father Sleeps’ is the title of the book my mother wrote throughout her life,” Rose says. “It involved her relationship with my grandfather, the way she could communicate with him through the poetry of Carl Sandburg and the writings of Truman Capote. Her storytelling always inspired me to tell my own through music. The album title and artwork serves as a bookend, the songs written between two moments. The front cover shows my mother reading to my brother and me outside the North Asheville library in the summer of 1995, the back is her headstone. Though I didn’t write these songs in a state of grief, I came to know this album while I was grieving. When my mother died, I learned a new language, the language of death. At the same time, I was continuing to build strength and love within my community. My story isn’t uncommon. I hope my music finds a home with those who speak these same languages.”

While My Father Sleeps begins with “25, Alive,” a dirge-y, distorted-guitar gem that is fueled by Rose’s lovely rise-and-fall vocals and its choppy-smooth rhythm. The album’s lone number written following her mother’s death, it is a self-appeal to release the anger Rose had been holding both during her mother’s life and after her passing. As the song opens with the lines “Am I strong enough to tell my truth/25 I am alive and I am angry,” the way is paved for the passionate soul-bearing that follows. “I was 25 when my mother died and I was angry and broken,” Rose says. “This song is me saying I don’t want this anger because I know what it does to a person if they hold onto it.”

“Phoenix” is a fiery, emotional tune about rebirth following a betrayal. It embraces the situation no matter the pain. Lightening the mood, “Harrypotterjuana” uses its buoyant imagery to explore escapism as a means of avoiding coping with reality, and its slow-burn shuffle and shifting tempos complement those vibes perfectly. “Baby” is a playful tune utilizing Rose’s vocal scales. At closer inspection, the song is a self-effacing exploration of the fine line between understanding our inner child’s dependence on others and the tendency to avoid asking for help until our breaking point. As the record ends with the sparse strumming and atmospheric build of “Be Kind To Me,” it’s clear that Oh, Rose has created a landmark album of sonic self-expression and a courageous feat of emotional outpour.

Throughout the record, it is Rose’s powerful, expressive voice that carves our path, navigating a sure and delicate way from song to song. The emotion shifts and sways, a quality she attributes to the undulating nature of her past, ultimately providing a sturdy ground upon which to build. While My Father Sleeps is an album about family and friendship, beauty and love, turbulence and trauma amidst the sense of finally coming home.

While My Father Sleeps is set for release August 23rd via Park The Van Records.

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