Playlist: An Introduction to Portland label Tender Loving Empire in 16 Songs

You might remember us raving about Tender Loving Empire a few weeks ago during the launch of our new city guide dedicated to Portland. At the time, the whole team sent us a bunch of songs for a playlist featuring local musicians. More than just a boutique for handmade arts and crafts, Tender Loving Empire is also an indie label plugged into Portland’s music scene. Below, Rachel Milbauer and Aaron Meola have hand-selected sixteen tracks especially for us from the 60 or so albums the label has produced. Enjoy!

Y La Bamba – “Libre”

“Libre” – which means “freedom” in Spanish – joyfully ambles along on bubbly folk melodies and its dreamy bilingual narrative. Ojos del Sol, Y La Bamba’s fourth album, chronicles a deeply intimate journey of personal growth and perseverance by front woman, Luz Elana Mendoza.

Radiation City – “Foreign Bodies”

“Foreign Bodies” is about the way a friend can save your life. Creating shiny, hummable, lavish space-age melodies and mixing personal turmoils, they have surely mastered numerous pop idioms.

New Move – “The City Life” (Bughunt)

The self-titled album released with Bughunt, Tender Loving Empire’s sister label, is already undeniably one of the strongest local releases of the year with catchy melodies straying from doo-wop to glam pop, all tied together through front man Jesse Bettis’ subtle falsetto vocals and crisp song craftsmanship.

Typhoon – “Common Sentiments”

The eleven member outfit create a swirling storm of beauty and chaos, a monsoon of horns and strings that frame songwriter Kyle Morton’s dour and domed lyricism.

bed. – “Fremm” (Bughunt)

This slow-fi trio make songs fit for the life under the cloudy skies of the northwest. Distorted bass and guitars are ever-fuzzy with Sierra Haager’s lustrous vocals bringing the day…and the a close.

Jared Mees & The Grown Children – “Shake”

After listening to “Shake” you’ll be singing along like you’re on a school bus returning from a field trip, arm flung around your best pal. Something in Mees’ slightly nasally sing/talk creates a slightly more anthemic nature.

Domestics – “Wait Forever”

The duo dig deep into their own troubled past – London’s drug-addicted parents, Finn’s battles with mental illness – to create something both cathartic and uplifting. The lilting “Wait Forever” is a beautiful example, its melancholy masqueraded by its gentle indie pop.

Andy Shauf – “I’m Not Falling Asleep”

Shauf belongs to that category of gentle, breathy-voiced singer-songwriters, who specialize in waspish tales of marginalized characters and their bittersweet love lives. His music is richly textured but recorded on the cheap – often in his parents’ basement in the wild prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Brainstorm – “Forms Without A Frame”

The trio creates catchy and heavily percussive music that is nothing short of engaging. Borrowing from traditional African rhythms and soul music, they produce infectious dance music.

Magic Sword – “In The Face Of Evil”

“Mystery” is a key word for the trio as they use pseudonyms and perform wearing masks and cloaks. Magic Sword creates synth-based music coupled with a narrative detailed in a gorgeous comic book by local artist Shay Plumme.

Willis Earl Beal – “Flying So Low”

“Flying So Low” is a song of surrender to something bigger than yourself. His voice quivering and shaking under the weight of the dense keyboard drones represents the life Beal has gone through.

Typhoon – “The Honest Truth”

The lyrics are not just a series of words thrown together; they actually say something. And often, what they say is rather deep. The music is complex in terms of tempo, volume and instrumentation and uses a wide variety of instruments. The harmonies are unique and the vocals earnest.

Andy Shauf – “The Magician”

Shauf melds chipper British pop and breezy folk for a sound built from lush pianos, mellow acoustic guitars and jazzy rhythms to create ornate symphonic interludes that weave in between verses.

Y La Bamba – “Ostrich”

“Ostrich” is a soaring balance of tradition and evolution. The song is an upbeat acoustic guitar track under beautiful three-part harmonies about how the experiences we have, both good and bad, help us to grow into the people we are.

Radiation City – “Find It Of Use”

Enamored by modern electronic sounds but influenced by the chill tones of classic bossa records and the urgency and harmony of northern soul, Radiation City has codified seemingly disparate ideas into something equally space-aged and retro.

My Body – “Explode” (Bughunt)

The synth-pop duo pays incredible attention to melody and pop accessibility as they build incredibly lush electronic atmosphere that blends a post-modernist aesthetic through it’s accumulation of genres.

Photo: Luz deY La Bamba by Gerardo Mendoza

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