Sunday, March 20, 2016

Portland's Calisse's Ambitious Debut Album "Farewell Black Sheep" Takes You On A Trip

When you hear the first husky downbeats of Portland's Calisse's retro rocker Stay there is so much to like. The energy and full on over-modulated sound has that Ty Segall kick but the folk 70's rockish melodies veer into that White Fence tone. Both sounds work and compliment each other. The lead vocal performance (by James Collette) is drenched in character. He sounds like Bob Dylan a bit if Dylan was a punk rocker and there is bit of John Lennon in his screams.

Amberwood Drive has the wanderlust gate of a Babies song. The sound is driving and a bit desperate and I love that. I also love how the song dares to slow down, get all spartan and earnest until it kicks in again even harder and in the end feels like a sweaty house show. For a track that is a little over 2 minutes it crams in so much. James' evocative vox have a wonderful comfortable tone in the folkish in I Hope You'll Be Around which might be the most middle of the road on inclusive track on the album, the horn is a cool surprise. When Holy Ghost starts with it's picking falling down in half steps it feels psychedelic and heavy. The song only gets better as guitar lines and vox hang and dangle in the air. Very cool dynamic track.

At this critical point in the album, I am fully invested. You either love the aesthetic these guys are creating or you don't. I am eating it up.... and the very intimate Whole Again seals the deal. I can imagine that in a concert setting this is the song that lets the audience breathe. Acoustically rich, this song hinges on James' trembling vox. I would of loved to hear a full band eruption at the end. Omnibrain takes Calisse's dream theater into another place. Very trippy, haunting stuff that kind of rolls along on a languid drum beat. The vocal posturing feels art rock, feels a bit glam. The steady swell of sounds is luscious and intoxicating. At times it feels like a twisted almost nightmarish carnival ride and is (for me) one of the brightest broken lights on the album.

The sheer almost metal tone of Wanted coming after the theatrical Omnibrain feels out of place to me although this track is undoubtedly a crowd pleaser. I think it just strains into too many hard rock-isms. It feels a bit formulaic compared to all the other true surprises on the album. The last track Sometimes You Can't Use Names strips everything down once again to acoustic and James' introspective voice. The song goes silent after a time but like a secret scene at the end of movie credits sounds (like you would hear in an old French film) begin and then end. A weird end to a debut album that has some amazing sounds that take you on a pretty wild ride. Like any ride there are, in my humble opinion, some pot holes but overall "Farewell Black Sheep" feels like a bonafide classic piece of work. Much love for this debut.

Robb Donker

At Press Time I can only let you hear / see the official video for Stay (below) and check out some private streaming and comments here: AP Email Bag.

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