Port Alice is a self-described alternative indie rock band, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Original members Brandon McDaniel (bass) and Craige Bradley (drums) have played together with various acts since 1998, and formed Port Alice in 2009. While the lineup has morphed since 2009, the more recent additions of Ernie Ortega (guitar) and Drew Bie (lead vocals) have resulted in what founding member and manager McDaniel describes as “finding that spark you’ve been searching for.”
My approach with this review was to play the EP through once first, without knowing anything about the band. This would allow me to give an unbiased listen to lyrics, melodies, and arrangement. I always like to see if the music reminds me of any other bands/artists, as I think this is a great way to discover new music and introduce a band to potential new fans. Upon my first of many listens to the tracks on “Dandelion,” I was struck immediately by the similarity in sound to The Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Doors.
“Callow” starts off the EP with an impressive guitar riff, joined soon after by rolling and punchy drums. Once Bie started singing though, I felt like the drums and lead guitar sped up a bit too much, sounding out of sync with the lead vocals. Bie’s vocals are impassioned here though, and epitomize the theme of the song well. Lyrics about the pain and lessons learned from unrequited love are something almost everyone can relate to eventually: “I would have given anything/But you were never sure/A victim of a callous heart so cunning/Knocking at my door/I’ll always keep my distance/I won’t play the fool again.”
“Heavy Hollow” boasts a nice, strong bass line and tight drums all the way through. A guitar solo at the break puts Ortega’s lead guitar ability on display. I was really struck by the lyrics too. The band really captured the struggle of the search for good in a world that is seemingly becoming more negative and violent. Regardless, there was still hope conveyed in the lyrics. Because of all of these factors, “Heavy Hollow” is my favourite track on the EP.
The last two tracks on the EP, “Serpent’s Song” and “Tribulations,” both include a driving and concise bass line, elaborate drums, and groovy guitar licks that made me think of The Doors. Although Bie’s vocals were also strong and clear here, I found that melodically, the two songs sounded similar in some parts.
With that said, I did enjoy Dandelion and found that “Callow” and “Heavy Hollow” especially had found a comfortable place in my brain after hearing them a few times. Port Alice has a decent following online for an up-and-coming band and according to ReverbNation, they’re ranked #8 among 120+ other Albuquerque-based music acts. This is a testament to their fan base, fluid songwriting, and what I perceived via their online presence to be genuineness, likeability, and a real love of music. They’ll be getting straight to work in the new year with three shows booked in New Mexico and Colorado between January and April, and are also hoping for a mini tour in Colorado in late April. A new EP will be released in April 2014, and the band is also currently working on more material and videos/pics. I will definitely be keeping an ear out for more releases by Port Alice in the future.
You can listen to Dandelion and a previous EP by Port Alice here.
Written by Valerie