That Two series at the Port City is great for plenty of reasons — including the cheap beer, obviously — but that gig a couple Tuesdays back with Metal Feathers opening for Spouse on the big stage pretty much justifies the whole endeavor. I'd seen the two bands play together at the Empire, with Vancouverites the Parlour Steps, but it didn't occur to me at the time what a great pairing the two bands are. In Spouse's Jose Ayerve, Metal Feathers's Jay Lobley has the perfect template for how to exist as a modest and unassuming writer and performer of terrific indie rock songs.
Like Ayerve, whose utter destruction of a guitar at the finish of his set to close the show made everyone in the audience catch their breath, Lobley is a talent that's especially respected by other musicians in town, but reluctant to embrace the role of kickass frontman. I once had a fan e-mail me to say that I shouldn't hold Lobley's reticence against him after a review of the first Cult Maze record.
I won't hold anything against him if he keeps making records like Metal Feathers's sophomore release, Contrast Eats the Slimey Green. An album you can download for free off the band's Bandcamp site, it was released with all the fanfare of a mundane inter-office e-mail about extra pizza being available in the sixth-floor break room, but it is most assuredly being undersold.
In these 10 songs, packed into 31 minutes, Lobley has captured to best effect yet the raw energy and vitality that has drawn so many people to his songwriting. These songs are distinctive. They jump out of the headphones with urgency, a plumbing of Lobley's very being without a hint of narcissism. I found myself not only listening to the album right away again, but rewinding to the beginning of songs before they were even finished because I wanted to hear just that little part again.
It's hard to be this smart and interesting while remaining this free and easy.
Though the Kinks never got this loud and heavy, there's something about their sound Metal Feathers embody, a common-man perspective paired with a respect for melody and verse-chorus-bridge songwriting. Try out "City Hall," for example, where "I revel in the sound of my defeated privacy," as the piercing whine of a guitar punctuates emotion like something bad happening in a Scooby Doo cartoon and Jason Rogers's bass moves the song forward with a singular will."Your vote doesn't count because nobody wins/They pull a number out of a hat."
There are lots of great lyrics here, though you can't necessarily make them all out, whether on first listen or tenth, due to plenty of distortion and reverb. Lobley has a better voice than he thinks he has.
The pop contrast he creates in the opening "Fuzzy," between the klaxon-like keyboards that launch the track and his almost sunshiney pop vocal treatment, complete with "woo-woo-ooo" backing vocals, is terrific. As is the plinking piano you can just make out behind the crunching guitar. And I think the song might be about Lindsey Lohan, but I wouldn't put money on that.