It’s no secret that Portland, OR holds one of the most diverse local music scenes in the States. With artists ranging in genres from experimental avant-pop to heavy metal, the Northwest city houses artists always looking ahead and making attempts to push boundaries in their sound. While these artists look forward, others tend to look back at what made music great, and what opened those doorways for the rest of them. In these cases, a nostalgic look back to a bygone era produces an oft richer, and more timeless product.
On her latest record, Be Loud, Portland songwriter Karyn Ann has done just that. Ann has said before that she often feels she was born in the wrong decade. There’s validity to this claim, and it comes in the form of her soulful sound, demonstrated at the very beginning of her sophomore release.
Be Loud opens with “Be Still,” a pop rock cut that explodes with nostalgia, taking listeners back to the 60s, evoking memories of songwriters such as Carole King or Joni Mitchell, the boundary pushers of their generations, who opened the floor for artists like Karyn Ann to thrive. In looking to the past, Ann pays tribute to the greats who paved the way.
As “Be Still” grows and swells with Ann’s unique voice, a choir of voices breaks out in the chorus, offering texture and an awakening moment in the song, grabbing attention and leading you hand in hand into the rest of the record.
As Karyn Ann continues to take you through this journey, not once does her sound break character. Everything, from her vocal performance, to the mixing and production, to the songwriting itself, lends itself to a time passed, labeling Ann a classic voice for our modern era. “Same Old Thing” opens with a swanky southern riff, painting a picture of a late night at a 60s bar, before booming into a brass chorus. “After Burns” quickly follows with its emotional balladry, pairing Ann’s classic, echoing voice with a beautiful piano refrain and lush acoustic guitar.
Only halfway through the albums concise 10 tracks, Be Loud offers up yet another highlight in its title track of sorts, “Quiet Love.” Once again drawing in with a low balladry, Karyn Ann’s songwriting explodes as the chorus come to, a choir of voices once again joining her in the titular refrain:
“You’ve gotta let your love be loud!”
Though Karyn Ann’s magnificent second album packs in only 10 tracks, the beauty and poetry within them flow smoothly, clocking the running time of the record to a hearty full-length time of around 42 minutes. As a whole record, Be Loud achieves exactly what Karyn Ann set out to do. If she truly was born into the wrong decade, she is using her talent to live within the right one. With a voice and style like hers, this album can sit comfortably beside King’s Tapestry and Mitchell’s Blue to be played on a sunny summer day.
You can hear music from Karyn Ann’s new album ahead of it’s official release at her show tomorrow night, July 26th, at McMenamins Mission Theater in Portland, with support from Hayley Johnsen and Leo London. Doors at 7pm, show at 8pm. For more information, click here. Otherwise, look out for Be Loud when it drops on August 3rd. The album is available for preorder via iTunes here.
Article by: Brendan Swogger
Brendan Swogger is a music writer and college student in Portland, OR. He is the Creative Director for The Crush blog. You can follow him on IG and Twitter @indiealtpdx.
As someone who has been a musician my whole life, I know firsthand the struggle, alongside the joy, that come with this line of work. While music is a great channel for expressing emotions and experiences, I think it’s important to have another outlet separate from your art, which for many of us is also a career. For me, this outlet is my yoga practice. There are several reasons why I believe yoga is a perfect antidote to the stress of working in the music industry. Yoga has been a positive journey for me; now, being a yoga instructor inspires me to share the benefits of yoga with others.
I discovered yoga while I was earning my Music degree at Columbia College Chicago. I enrolled in a yoga class as an elective and had no idea how much I would wind up falling in love with it. After that semester, I continued taking yoga at CorePower Yoga and enjoyed how athletic and challenging the classes were. As I kept with my practice, I eventually found an incredible mind-body connection that I soon wanted to share with others. So, toward the end of my college years, I decided to train to be an instructor. Since then, I have been practicing yoga regularly and teaching it for about five years.
One of the main things I treasure about yoga is that it is its own outlet separate from my music. I strongly believe it is important for musicians to maintain a way to relieve stress and express themselves outside of their art. Making music after all is very hard work, but as musicians we never want our line of work to start feeling like a chore or burden. Yoga is definitely a mental space you can enter that is separate from any outside stress. It is about quieting the mind and the constant chatter that can interfere with creativity. During a yoga class, I try to not think about music whatsoever. While artists are encouraged to always seek inspiration and hone their craft, I think that 60+ minutes of just moving and clearing my head are more helpful to my creativity and my overall health in the long run. I see it in myself and the students that leave my classes: a good session lifts a weight off your shoulders and allows you to move and think more fluidly throughout the rest of your day.
Yoga not only encourages mental improvements, but it has obvious physical benefits as well. A healthy body supports a healthy mind and a productive workflow. This includes getting enough sleep, fueling your body with great whole foods, and moving your body every week. As musicians and artists, I feel we sometimes get caught up in the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality. I’ve found that yoga is a reminder that you need to devote time to taking care of yourself and remember that your health truly comes first.
Many of us who work in music tend to forget to set aside the necessary time to check in with ourselves mentally and physically. Sometimes we need a reminder to prioritize our health and seek balance in our art and our careers. I encourage you to explore yoga as a means through which you can exercise that self-care.
About the Author
Nashville Singer/songwriter Chelsea Burns writes from personal experience and connects with people through her authentic music. Midwest raised and fine-tuned in the Windy City, Chelsea Burns brings her refreshingly lovely voice and authentic songwriting technique to the pop genre, illustrating her thoughts and experiences through her songs.
Listeners have always been able to rely on folk music to detail moments in history. Elke Robitaille’s single, “Mercy”, is no exception. The song begins somber, detailing Elke’s frustrations with the world around her, as well as disappointments in herself. Elke doesn’t dwell on negativity though, and moves her lyrics quickly to messages of hope. The song acts as a call to action for people to have more compassion and to use the power they have to make the world a better place.
For Elke, making the world a better place means participating in the March For Our Lives rally in downtown Portland, OR. The accompanying video for “Mercy”, produced by Totem Ent., follows Elke and several friends as they join the protests. Elke’s sign is simple and just reads “Mercy”, matching the song title. The cinematography of the video fits the mood of both the song and the location it was filmed in. Earth tones are prominent and the overcast skies only add to the mood of seriousness Elke successfully gets across with the video. Since March For Our Lives was a movement started in response to a tragedy, it would have been easy for the video to be a vignette of frustration and discouragement. The way Elke and her friends walk, however, is determined and defiant.
This release from Elke is incredibly strong and the quality of the video compliments the production quality of the song itself. Elke is a natural on camera and her passion for her music and the causes she supports is evident.
Watch the video for “Mercy” below and see Elke live at the video release part on July 6th at Alberta Street Pub in Portland, OR from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Review by: Emily Watson
Emily Watson was raised in New England and now lives in Portland, OR. She spends her free time writing indie-pop music and exploring Oregon. You can follow her on Instagram @emjaywat.