(Tbd Records; 2009)
The stark contrast separating All We Could Do Was Sing’s opener “I Woke Up Today” from Threadbare’s first track “High Without The Hope 3” is likely to mislead many a listener. While the former is indeed a rousing sing-along and the latter a tempered meditation, the subsequent material on each effort rests in a familiar template: pseudo-shanties intertwined with loping, dreamy indie-rock.
In the summertime, Port O’Brien’s core members Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin travel from California to Alaska to toil away on fishing boats and in canneries. This proximity to seafaring life infuses the duo’s nautical cues with ingenuous heft. There’s authenticity between the lines, between the sparkling notes and airy harmonies.
The climates from both regions are represented, as Threadbare manages to sound simultaneously balmy and frigid. “Next Season” is a fine example of the geographical combination; Goodwin and Pierszalowski croon into the howling winds while the measured arrangements envelop us in a snug blanket.
This pattern is a consistent one, and perhaps it stands as the prevailing blemish on Port O’Brien’s third full-length. All We Could Do Was Sing possessed ditties that dissipated the mist from the low-key yet lambent affair “Will You Be There?” to the chanted anthem “Fisherman’s Song.”
Threadbare plays significantly closer to the chest, spinning a web of uniformity much as Great Lake Swimmers did on their last outing, Lost Channels.
Uptempo romp “Leap Year” attempts to spice things up, but placed after the halfway mark, it becomes little more than an exercise in futility. Consequently, the 13 numbers never muster the strength to fully break through the haze.
Nonetheless, there are quality tunes. Most notable is the dawdling road-trip folk of “Oslo Campfire” and the sparse, enchanting ballad “In The Meantime.” However, the following entry “Tree Bones” represents the amorphous force stifling this record. Having now appeared on three separate Port O’Brien releases, the tune isn’t poor per se; it’s merely been done before… by this very band.
Threadbare contains a wealth of interesting elements, yet they’re so homogenous that it all washes together in the end. All they could do was sing last year. These days, they seem content to pick at residual strands of an increasingly rote formula.
Trial Track: “Sour Milk/Salt Water”