After sitting down with the Strangled Darlings’ latest work, a 12-track LP entitled Red Yellow & Blue, it’s clear that Portlanders George Veech and Jessica Anderly are comfortable with the sound they’ve cultivated. Deft, confident songwriting — as haunting as their particular brand may be — is one of the duo’s honed-est talents, and they’ve set in motion a vessel to prove that freak-folk and pop can hold hands. Their sound is that of an energetic Devendra Banhart (here played by multi-instrumentalist Veech) marrying the weaving, poppy swing of a string band with Black Prairie’s eerie style and Jack Johnson’s thirst for acoustic grooves.
If there’s ever a time to incorporate nursery rhymes — the ones that might sound far more twisted from the mouth of, say, a vaudeville-era ringmaster — it’s here, alongside an assortment of disjointed plucks and tweaks that Phil Spector would probably want to shoot himself over. Despite the creepiness and yawning chasms of holey production, Red Yellow & Blue’s into-the-woods-with-a-banjo-and-fiddle aesthetic fits Veech and Anderly far more appropriately than a wall of sound ever could.
Beyond this, there’s a rockabilly characteristic to what would otherwise be considered unique folk-pop, and it lends the duo their mysteriously caustic presence. Hey, there’s nothing like a slanted punk undertone to get the feet stomping — and this furthers both the antiquity of the group’s sound as well as the downright impishness of their lyrics. Don’t be surprised to hear Veech literally howl like the wolf that ate Little Red’s gramgram, and don’t be shocked if the corners of your own mouth start to curl into a menacing grin as the sound of fun-loving decay washes over you.
Strangled Darlings & Aeon Now play 9 pm Thursday, May 10, at Sam Bond’s; $1-$5.