You can't swing a pair of fashionable glasses without hitting a singer/songwriter in Portland who claims Elliot Smith as an influence. Krist Krueger is among that particular majority, and much of the Southerly catalog focuses on acoustic guitar-heavy tunes with Krueger's voice taking center stage. The songs are intimate and well crafted, but they don't pack the same musical wallop as the most recent Southerly release.
Champion of the Noisy Negativist is a lush, instrumental orchestral pop album with little pretense and plenty of intensity. Krueger taps an emotional vein with heady instrumentation and deceptively simple arrangements. Dark drones slowly engulf lonely piano motifs and subtle, sometimes distorted melodies mirror the incongruous marriage of elation and despair. Without being overwrought or heavy-handed, these songs provide the cleanse of a much-needed bawl that somehow leaves you feeling more optimistic about, rather than oppressed by, the trappings of daily existence.
The current tour is billed as "Southerly performs Champion of the Noisy Negativist," and if the live show lives up to the richness of the record, you'd be well advised to check out Krueger and company when they come through town.
Southerly plays the Zootown Arts Community Center Saturday, June 17, at 7 PM with Tyson Ballew and The Scribblers, Harpo, and The Keys Knees. $5–$7.