One of the bands to watch for in 2007 is Portland's Heroes and Villains. Their debut album, Turn Your Swords, is one of those recording projects from an unknown band that illustrates the beauty and awkwardness of wandering into a place you've never been. Heroes and Villains blend structures and styles that resemble daredevil acts that no one should try at home. H&V balance the discomfort of a first date, with melody and style that is as undeniable as global warming. Like their band name suggests they indulge in the exploration of dark and light.
Reminiscent of recordings by Black Heart Procession, Heroes and Villains songs are like tiny scores to a silent film, with no variations of gray. They are stark, playful and nicely executed. For example, on "Ghost in the Grass," the song begins with sweetly sad piano and leads to tumbling beats, and as the story unfolds, the clashes and characters are underscored by bright vocals filling the shadowy mood of the strings.
One of the most impressive aspects of this album is the mix of various instruments. While it has been a common trend in indie- and alt-rock circles to introduce uncommon instruments, it often comes off as novel and does not always complement. Thankfully, Heroes and Villains do not over dose on the use of organs, violins, rock guitars and the like. Instead, the instrumentation feels appropriate and adds to the compelling nature of their overall sound.
Heroes and Villains are frequent visitors and there are former Idahoans among the members. Spooky and fun like a circus, Turn Your Swords is a great first album with depth and complexity few can match on a debut. If this is any indication, expect great things from Heroes and Villains this year. In the meantime, check them out live when they come through town. I'll see you there.