Some of our favorite days in 2013 were, naturally, the days we recorded bands in the studio or at local venues for opbmusic sessions. Over the course of a few hours, we’d set up the lighting, the cameras, the mics and stands and miles of cable. Our guests would pull up to the loading zone and start unstacking amps and guitar cases, share a few stories of recording, touring, and their (hopefully daylong) window of downtime in the Rose City, then warm up, tune up, plug in, and blow us all away.
We recorded over 30 new sessions this year, and were fortunate to work with some longtime favorite artists (Yo La Tengo, Josh Ritter) as well as a few newcomers that have quickly become the same (Houndstooth, Magic Mouth). We are also deeply appreciative of all the people who worked on sessions this year: our audio mixer Steven Kray; audio and lighting techs Randy Layton, Bill Ward, Zack Carver-Gustin, Jonathan Newsome, and Julie Mosebar-Johnson; video producers Ifanyi Bell, Nate Sjol and Jarratt Taylor; and shooters/photographers Sam Smith, Molly Gard, Marjorie Deocampo, Jason Bernert, Kathryn Boyd-Batstone, Greg Boone, Nathan Quigley, Nathan Tang, Inger Klekacz, Corey O’Hara, Dave Cusick, Jeremy Petersen, Rachel Milbauer, and Corey Arnold. Thanks!
Needless to say, it’s always hard to pick just a few, but here are some of the videos that stood out in 2013: (Note all of these videos look their best full-screen and in HD.)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson
Though UMO‘s music is a dense and mesmerizing stew of distortion, guitar, and chugging bass lines, this solo acoustic session unwrapped Nielson’s songs and let us hear them in a new way: compact, and disarmingly soulful at the core.
Josh Ritter Soundcheck at the Crystal Ballroom
Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band played the Crystal Ballroom in March, touring with the new record The Beast in its Tracks — a breakup record that sounds at peace with the end of a relationship — something you can hear in this song, “Hopeful.” I’d never seen the curtains open in the Crystal Ballroom before. The sun streamed into the room and gave the session this look.
Josh Ritter: Hopeful (opbmusic session)
Houndstooth‘s impressive debut release, Ride Out the Dark, won them many new fans in Portland, and this session was a standout too. We loved the interplay between John Gnorski and Katie Bernstein on this song, “Wheel on Fire.” (You can also download this song on our session page.)
Houndstooth: Wheel on Fire (opbmusic session)
Yo La Tengo
30s years going and still inventive, unpredictable and fun, Yo La Tengo stopped by OPB in May to play songs from their latest, Fade. The set they played included very still songs like “I’ll Be Around” and this version of “Ohm” — anything but still — with its extended guitar solo.
Yo La Tengo: Ohm (opbmusic session)
In indie-rock Portland, a band with no guitars, just drums and vibraphone, stands out already. But Jose Medeles and David Coniglio come from rock and jazz backgrounds, and find a new sound playing the bell-like vibes against crackling drum patterns and bursts of noise. The songs are all miniatures, barely three minutes long. We find this band extremely compelling to watch.
1939 Ensemble: Blossom Bell (opbmusic session)
Alela Diane at Portland’s The Old Church
Alela Diane (like Josh Ritter, above), released her version of the breakup album this year. About Farewell gave us some of the most achingly beautiful songs of 2013, and we recorded these versions at soundcheck at The Old Church.
Alela Diane: Colorado Blue (opbmusic session)
In case you missed it, we submitted the Cody ChesnuTT video of “Chips Down” (with members of the PSU Orchestra) for NPR’s list of Top 10 Public Radio Sessions of 2013. And you can see all of our sessions here.