It will most likely not come as a surprise to learn that Port O’Brien are a band who have found their inspiration from the environment in which they live. Although you would be wrong to assume they live in Port O’Brien – no, in fact they are currently resident in and around Kodiak Island, Alaska, a bleak, beautiful and at times isolating place to live. Remarkably for a signed band, inspiration is also drawn from the labour intensive day jobs they have (although, the show schedule on their MySpace page would suggest they’re taking a fairly long summer break); and let it be known, inspiration is something this band has in bucket loads.
Their sound could be loosely characterised as alt. folk, however it would likely appeal to fans of bands as diverse as the Shout Out Louds, Pavement and Akron/Family. Their music is as much a reaction against the solitude and stark beauty they live in, as it is a reflection of it. ‘I Woke Up Today’ is a joyous and emphatic opener, which unfolds in a delightfully unpredictable way, featuring a Polyphonic Spree-style choir of voices. ‘Pigeonhole’ – about as rock as this band gets – is a cathartic, ramshackle alt-folk wig out featuring crazed, wailing guitars that at times echoes Sonic Youth, or Western Freeway-era Grandaddy. ‘Will You Be There?’ is a more stripped down, intimate affair that showcases the fragile vulnerability of Van Pierszalowski’s lead vocal. Jaunty banjos, varied drum textures, choirs, and damn good melodies all contribute to making this album thoroughly entertaining.
All We Could Do Was Sing explores life’s questions and challenges, its beauties and its ironies. Its lyrical introspection is balanced against its deep, melodic life-blood and energetic and ambitious arrangements. It’s easy to imagine joining this band for a few jars and a sing-along in some isolated Alaskan bar. This is folk music for an indie rock audience, and as such is a celebration of the highs and lows, the beauty and the fragility of life, and the fact that music is good for the soul.