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Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Rock Americana


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See Link - Music Without Labels

Back in November, we shot Pigeons performing
Dance It All Away in their NE Portland living room.

Their sounds allude to rougher times – an experimental indie-rock that’s been transported back to the 18th century. Lead singer Justin Ready grew up in Nebraska and later moved North to go to school for guitar building and repair on an isolated stretch of Canada’s Vancouver Island. “It was incredibly, incredibly gorgeous,” Ready explains. “Not very populated, but it could get rowdy when the fishermen came in. We would have school all day and usually either take the ferry over to Vancouver for the weekend or go down to Nanimo for any kind of nightlife.” Ready’s experiences in these barren yet agitated environments spill over into the music, creating a raucous chaos, like an angry fisherman returning from sea with any empty net and a full flask... - Into The Woods

[DESOLATION POP] It’s rare for a musician to get all the way into their 20s without ever having played in a real band—rarer yet for five such people to wind up in the same group. But that’s the story of Portland orchestral pop quintet Pigeons.

“When we started, it was more of a concept, like, ‘This is what we think a band is,’” says 27-year-old singer-guitarist Justin Ready, laughing. “We made lots of mistakes and a lot of wrong turns.”

For more than two years, he says, that learning curve kept the band from trying its hand at recording; it even scrapped an entire album’s worth of material before solidifying the songs that make up its self-titled, Mike Coykendall-produced LP. Now that the album’s finished, there is little sign this is a group whose members were, until recently, more accustomed to performing solo (or that there is a different rhythm section on almost every track).

Pigeons’ layered, expansive sound—anchored by Ready’s emotional bloodletting as a vocalist, Angie Kuzma’s sorrowful violin and Luke Matter’s expressive keyboards—is inspired in part by Ready’s upbringing in a small, rural Nebraska town.

“That’s where I’m trying to come from, lyrically—the openness and desolation of Nebraska, especially in the wintertime,” he says. “I don’t mean desolation like being out there alone, it’s more visual—flat, open. And I don’t mean that depressingly. To me, that’s really pretty.”

But there is a current of melancholy to the album, which is provided by Matter’s songwriting input. He, too, was raised in a small, isolated town—Bird Creek, Alaska—but unlike Ready, his aesthetic leans more toward the darkness of the environment he grew up in.

“Even if the song’s totally upbeat or poppy, I have to throw in some depressing undertone,” says Matter, 26, who cites Nick Cave as an inspiration (with his prodigious beard and thinning, slicked-back hair, he could pass for one of the Bad Seeds). “I’ve always been happier playing sad music.”

Those disparate influences congeal into a coherent whole within Pigeons—which, for a group of band virgins, is quite an accomplishment. - Willamette Week

Pigeons' debut record, The Talking Wire, is easily one of the best local releases of late, each song confidently testing the boundaries of garage rock and Americana. For that reason, you could clumsily shuffle them under the "experimental" rug with your mukluks, but that title does them absolutely no justice. Justin Ready's hoarse wail, even at its most intense, is lightly sweetened by Angie Kuzma's violin, reeling along throughout most of the songs' melodies, and when the whole band is in the throes, the raw energy of their music is overwhelming. And captured to tape, no less! Which is damned near impossible to do. RAQUEL NASSER - Portland Mercury

With their debut, The Talking Wire, Pigeons have recorded one of the best albums to come out of Portland this year. A blurry, hazily gorgeous collection of songs, The Talking Wire is packed with highlights: "Autumn Sound" begins things with a stately gait, while the epically scaled country-punk of "Valiant Down, River Wide" manages to be both laidback and full-throttle at the same time. Meanwhile, the smoldering guitar and unhinged howl of Justin Ready haunts songs like "A Thousand Miles" and "Cinderella." There's even room for a murky backwoods folktune, "Send a Mountain to My Valentine," which sounds like it was found underneath a hollow log. With the impressively off-kilter math-pop of Wax Fingers, the easygoing folk of What Hearts, and a performance from avant-dance troupe tEEth, this is going to be a night of Portland talent that couldn't happen in any other town. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury

The Talking Wire from Portland band Pigeons is easily one of the best local debuts in recent memory. The young group—based around the nucleus of guitarist/vocalist Justin Ready, violinist Angie Kuzma, and keyboardist Luke Matter—has been together for a couple years, but the album, recorded with the help of Mike Coykendall and Skyler Norwood, exhibits a confidence that far more experienced bands never attain. Listen to how the rollicking "Valiant Down, River Wide" boils in a frenzy, then simmers to an eye-in-the-storm calm before letting loose again. Or the stately gait of "A Thousand Miles," which makes fine use of Ready's slightly Isaac Brock-like howl. Or the slow burn of "Cinderella," in which the band sifts through angry wreckage to find a hopeful sound. Or opening track "Autumn Sound," which is as fine an introductory fanfare as a band could hope for. Packaged in unique, handmade sleeves for its vinyl release, The Talking Wire is an album brimming with highlights, and indicates that Pigeons is a great, graceful, exciting band, worthy of all the acclaim that is undoubtedly going to be heaped on them. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury

Not just another strummy folk-rock band, Pigeons' music grows like wild, sprawling weeds, touching different pockets of Americana with urgency and grace, as evidenced on the Portland band's splendid debut, The Talking Wire—available for free right now on the band's Bandcamp page. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury

...Also on the bill is Pigeons, and there are probably other bands out there called Pigeons, but I guarantee none are as good as the Portland one. Hosting a stately, majestic blend of folk and rock—and finding a heretofore-unfound combination of those often combined ingredients—Pigeons makes music that alternately seethes in fury or rattles gently with grace. Their debut album The Talking Wire is a remarkable record, worthy of a much wider audience. NED LANNAMANN - Portland Mercury


"The Talking Wire" LP (Released Oct 2010)



Currently at a loss for words...