Various: Friends and Friends of Friends
Portland, Ore., label Tender Loving Empire lives up to two-thirds of its name. Husband and wife owners, Brianne and Jared Mees, clearly put a great deal of TLC into choosing the music they carry and any and all associated merch--including what's available in their TLE retail store. Most importantly, they offer it all at price points even the poorest PDXer (or online shopper from Idaho) can afford. And the empire part? With releases like their 2009 two-CD compilation Friends and Friends of Friends, Vol. 2, they are well on their way.
Since genre descriptions are nearly feckless, calling Friends indie-anything would be a bit untrue ... but only in regard to the kind of music. The compilation epitomizes indie spirit. Even the packaging of the two-CD release is special. The cardboard case, graced with images of a ship, a castle and a human heart in three dulcet tones of blue was designed by Portland artist Andrew Sloan (monstrousmedia.com) and screenprinted at TLE. It's soft and matte, and touching it hints at the textures of sound inside.
The compilation is comprised of two CDs: Neighbors and Pen Pals. Neighbors contains 23 tracks by Portland-based acts, some nationally known, some whose first exposure may very well be on this CD. Touring bands Starf***er , Lackthereof and Jared Mees and the Grown Children (see Listen Here, page 28) share space with the chill, jazzy beats of Yeah:Great:Fine, psychedelic, fauna-obsessed Gratitillium and the quirky pop sounds of Dirty Mittens. Pen Pals holds 20 tracks of music outside--sometimes well outside--the Portland area like Baltimore's Small Sur, San Francisco-based Low Red Land, L.A.'s Starving Daughters and Boise's own Finn Riggins (who are on the TLE label).
While the music on the CD is all by other musicians and acts, except for Mees' track, the message is what TLE must be all about. And in case it's not clear, on the inside cover, TLE explains their inspiration not only for this CD but for the art of creating music:
"Friends and Friends of Friends is a series of musical compilations intending to foster the cross-continental pollination of aesthetic progress through music and art. It is the intention of this compilation to break down a small piece of the barriers, be they commercial, geographic or otherwise, that divide artists into rank and file competitors. The songs on these two discs are some of the best examples we know of genuine, heartfelt, unironic musical expression. We are privileged to know the people and/or know someone who knows the people who make this music. Thank you for buying this comp and supporting independent, hard working artists. Burn, upload, distribute at will. Do the right thing." [Signed] The TLE Family, 2009, Portland, Ore.
Uniting artists sounds like a Herculean task. But isn't that what empires are built on?