Port O’Brien – Threadbare [Album Review]

by oz on October 12, 2009


Port O’Brien have been one of my top five favorite bands for the past three years. Each album they release far exceeds my expectations and slowly becomes an addiction. I’ve seen them in San Francisco, Austin and once in Boston where I had the opportunity to chat with lead singer Van Pierszalowski over a pint. He gives great hugs. I digress. The band’s latest album, Threadbare, recently elbowed its way near the top of my list of best albums of 2009.

The nucleus of the band are Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin and, while past albums have drawn their influence from Van’s commercial fishing exploits off the coast of Alaska, Threadbare is a different sort of expedition. The music is more focused, which I assume is the result of more time on land, on tour and in recording studios. The lyrics are more serious and at times very sad. The passing of Cambria’s brother just before recording the album may have had something to do with that.

I’m sure that tragic loss burned the fuel that became Threadbare. Cambria’s desolate voice shines on “High Without Hope 3,” the title track, “Next Season” and “(((Darkness Visible))).” Van is even despondent on tracks like “Calm Me Down,” but more frequently he balances the album with uptempo songs like “My Will Is Good,” “Leap Year” and “Love Me Through.” I haven’t even mentioned two of the best tracks, “Oslo Campfire,” “Sour Milk/Salt Water” and a song from previous albums called “Tree Bones” that has a Meat Puppets “Lake of Fire” vibe. That last part may just be in my head.

If an album is very good, I procrastinate writing about it. I’m painfully aware that I’m not a professional writer, so putting pen to paper over an album I love is daunting. For the great albums, I know I’ll never do them justice so I put them off for days or weeks. I’ve had Threadbare for about five months. I’m just now writing about it.

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Port O’Brien – My Will Is Good

Port O’Brien – Sour Milk/Sour Water

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Shirk October 12, 2009 at 8:02 am

Nice review, Oz. I’ve been enjoying this album for quite some time. “Calm Me Down” has become my favorite song of the album. I love the simple yet building outro section of the song. Having POB in for a return HearYa session a week ago was great. They did a fantastic job and it was a blast to hear their sound evolve from the last time they were in a year and a half ago. We got a tasty little version of Oslo down…excited to share that!

Woody October 12, 2009 at 9:03 am

I also really like the addition of Gram on guitar. Now, I was a big fan of Zeb. He brought a load of energy to the band but his playing was more straight ahead. Gram’s sound seems to fit the overall sound of the band better. It adds a new element to the band.

Mallory October 19, 2009 at 10:52 am

thank you for sharing! I hadn’t heard of them, but after listening to more of their songs I will sure try to see them when they come to Amsterdam 🙂

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