Port O’Brien – All We Could Do Was Sing

by oz on March 25, 2008

Port O'Brien

I suppose if you’re a musician, you draw inspiration from your day-to-day life. If you spend your hours as a barista at Starbucks, your music may be uninspired. I’m no musician, but if I were, I’d probably have some rockin’ tunes about cubicle decor or Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The music of Port O’Brien, on the other hand, is inspired by long days and nights on a fishing vessel off of the coast of Alaska. I recently received a copy of their upcoming release, All We Could Do Was Sing, and every time I put on my headphones Port O’Brien takes me on a journey out to sea.

I first fell in love with Port O’Brien after hearing The Wind and the Swell last year. They sounded like a traveling band of gypsies with a sound so loose it seemed their instruments may fall to pieces at any moment. The album wasn’t produced in a studio, the cover art shows two people in rain coats laying on a ship, the songs were mostly acoustic, and the vocals were rough around the edges and distant at times. Despite it’s shortcomings in production, it was brimming with honesty, charm and creative energy. It ended up at #5 on our top 50 albums of 2007.

When I opened up All We Could Do Was Sing, I was really nervous. Could lead singer Van Pierszalowski and his songwriting counterpart Cambria Goodwin replicate their previous effort? Surely it will fall short. I can’t imagine that Van had time to take a voyage on the fishing vessel between albums to find inspiration, could he?

I’m not sure what he did, but I do know that All We Could Do Was Sing is better than it’s predecessor. It starts with a new, raucous version of “I Woke Up Today” then jumps right into the new stuff with “Stuck on a Boat.” Van’s soft vocals ease into the tune, accompanied by an electric guitar as he sings of the isolation he feels on the ocean, away from the woman he loves. The sound grows bigger and stronger with the lines “My feet weren’t made for the sea/ They were made for running free/Don’t make much sense to me/ To be stuck on a boat at sea.” Stringed arrangements and a building power in his vocals evoke a growing desperation, teetering on madness.

The album always feels inspired by a bit of cabin fever with soft, sweet, finger-picked tunes like “Fisherman’s Son” offset by extended jams and heavy guitar riffs on “Pigeonhold” and “The Rooftop Song.” It’s safe to say that Port O’Brien immediately quelled the sophomore slump fears I had prior to hearing All We Could Do Was Sing. That first album wasn’t a flash in the pan after all. Van and Cambria have more arrows in their quiver and instead of washing away the charm, the studio brought more instrumentation and a bigger sound. I’m now a die-hard Port O’Brien fan and this is the follow up album I’d hoped for.

Look for it on May 13th.

Website | MySpace | Purchase The Wind and the Swell

Port O’Brien – I Woke Up Today

Port O’Brien – Close the Lid

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody March 26, 2008 at 10:53 am

I just got done giving this is a spin and I can say this is amazing.

Steve Shirk April 3, 2008 at 9:36 am

This album is great….NICE WORK!

sandrar September 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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