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.