Esme Patterson, Awful Truth | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Esme Patterson, Awful Truth Recommended Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Wed., Aug. 3, 9 p.m. 2016

We Were Wild (Grand Jury), the spry, smart new album from Portland singer Esme Patterson, starts with an upper-register burst of guitar skree that harks back to the hyperactive churn of the Feelies classic “Fa Ce La,” though that signpost promptly vanishes once opener “Feel Right” ends. For most of the infectious record Patterson writes with refreshing directness, repeating simple lines that gain resonance with every cycle. On “Feel Right” she admits nobody wants to do things that are painful or uncomfortable, but then asks, “But without feeling wrong / How can we know what feels right?” Amid the charging guitars and her ebullient delivery the song becomes a sprinting valediction to overcoming adversity or fear. “No River” deploys 60s soul motifs, though Patterson’s sweet warble couldn’t be further from a vintage soul voice—she trots out unfussy words that convey the depth of her empathy while sharing her limitations: “I can’t keep running, I’m no river.” The airy ballad “Guadalupe” underlines Patterson’s admiration for the easy-on-the-ears phrasing of Feist, though she’s more rustic with how she stretches the pretty melody every which way. As a whole the album quickly worked its way into my brain, with each spin transforming from a pleasant way to spend 40 minutes into something I’ve actively sought out more and more each week.

Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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