Kaia: Oregon

Jeremy Schneyer



Label: Mr. Lady
US Release Date: 2002-04-30

There are several reasons why Kaia Wilson is perhaps the perfect object of an unrequitable rockstar crush. First, she's staggeringly cute. Second, she's one of the most charismatic performers I've ever seen. Third, she writes really cool songs. Fourth, she's completely and utterly unattainable (well, for us guys, anyway. Girls might hold on to the desperate hope that they might be the one to pry her away from the clutches of her beloved Tammy Rae, but don't hold yer breath). And guys, you don't even have to feel guilty about having a crush on Kaia, because odds are pretty damn good that your girlfriend will have a crush on her too. And as everyone knows, there's nothing like an unattainable rockstar crush to bring couples together.

So, what does this have to do with Kaia's latest solo record, Oregon? Well, not much, except for the fact that I'm pretty hard pressed to find much wrong with most of the stuff she puts out, even if it's a pretty, airy, relatively lightweight affair, as Oregon is.

Kaia has always been at her best when backed by a loud-ass rock band. Whether it was her work in the seminal Team Dresch, or her current crack outfit, The Butchies, Wilson has always been a master at combining addictive pop melodies with stone-crushing punk rock. While The Butchies are just hitting their stride (their 3 can take credit as one of the best records of last year), Kaia still manages to put out a pleasant little acoustic solo record every few years.

While The Butchies' best work borders on groundbreakingly brilliant, Kaia's solo stuff tends to tread much closer to the middle of the road. These are pretty, catchy little folk-pop songs that probably aren't going to change anyone's life, but are very nice nonetheless. Oregon actually finds her backpedaling slightly into the comfortable, charming coffee-house folk that characterized her first, self-titled solo record, in comparison to the new-wave keyboard experiments that dotted 1998's Ladyman. However, she still finds room for the amusingly cheesed-out Casio beat on the short "Make Me Please", and the washes of keyboard that float over "Air" in a similar way that they did on Ladyman's "Little Brave One '97".

If I could ask one thing of Kaia with respect to her solo records, it would be a bit more variation from song to song. Too many of these songs feature nothing but Kaia's voice and acoustic guitar. While there's certainly nothing wrong with that, too much of it tends to create a slightly hermetic atmosphere, and makes such subtle instrumental variation as the harmonica that runs through "Jasper" seem like a ray of sunshine on a gray day.

Basically, there's nothing here that's going to shock anyone who's heard either of Kaia's other two solo releases. Her voice still lilts, her lyrics still cut deep, and her songs are invariably well-constructed and pretty. However, there isn't really anything on Oregon that differentiates it from either of her other solo records. Despite this, it's still quite an enjoyable listen, and a breath of fresh air to indulge in before the Butchies' inevitable next assault.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.