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Seattle has become a hip-hop factory — or at least hip hop with a PNW twist: Blue Scholars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Wanz, Common Market, Grieves, Shabazz Palaces. And, like most hip-hop scenes, Seattle is dominated by male artists. Then there’s THEESatisfaction.

Alternative rocker Laura Meyer calls it like she sees it. Religion, greed, life on the road and relationships all get their share of attention on her albums, and her observations will certainly get you thinking.

When there’s a story — or an album’s worth of stories — inside you, it’s going to find a way to come out. For Vikesh Kapoor, the first several years of his life were spent playing piano. Then, an arm injury. He turned to photojournalism at Boston University.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Laura Cortese jumps genres like freight trains. The young fiddler has appeared alongside rockers like Band of Horses, Patterson Hood and Michael Franti, while her solo work is drenched in Americana and classical sensibilities.

With music institutions — especially those in less commercial genres — struggling musicians and fans have had to get social and entrepreneurial, increasingly relying on grassroots funding (through Indiegogo, Kickstarter and similar crowdsourcing sites) and informal venues. 

It takes a special character to receive surprise fellatio onstage mid-performance (we’re not making this up) and then keep performing. But I guess that’s what happens when the majority of your lyrics focus on drugs, sex and the rockstar life (listen to the track “Die Like a Rockstar”). It’s the nature of the provocative rap beast.

Love or hate Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby, one of the most hypnotic scenes of the film is the first. There’s no Leonardo DiCaprio or Carey Mulligan, simply the camera zooming in on the metallic, Art Nouveau Gatsby crest as The xx’s “Together” pings with melancholy coolness. 

After a week of trying to set up an interview with Les Claypool, the time and day was upon me. I was slightly nervous, but getting more so as each minute went by and the phone didn’t ring. Les Claypool stood me up.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Listening to the music of Trevor Powers, more widely known as Youth Lagoon, is not so much a psychedelic experience as it is an exploration of Powers’ psyche.

Once upon a time bands could wait a few albums before having a hit — U2, REM and Nirvana among others.  This allowed artists to grow, change and most importantly experiment. These days, with the great contraction of the music business, bands-without-hits are signed and dropped faster than ever; many are never signed at all.

With Jason Cowsill's most recent project, Troupe Carnivàle, he joins his wife, Jackie, for an exploration of the Vaudeville aesthetic drawing influence from Old West medicine shows.

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley

Portland’s The Quick & Easy Boys are bringing the party back to Eugene in celebration of their new record Make It Easy. The Boys’ bread and butter is an infamously high energy live show.

For many, Sara Watkins will forever be associated with the bluegrass group Nickel Creek. This is understandable considering how popular the band was, but Watkins has been blazing a solo trail for the last six years straight into the midnight sun.

On May 14, just days after The Bad Plus shook The Shedd, another youngish ensemble that’s reinventing jazz for a new era, Refuge Trio, plays the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall — where the trio’s pianist, former UO piano prof Gary Versace, once dazzled Eugeneans a decade ago.

It’s always a little bit of magic when two people can make music together that is larger than the sum of their individual parts. Such is the case with San Diego folk-pop duo The Lovebirds. 

When Grammy-nominated bluegrass act The Infamous Stringdusters were looking for a producer for their new record they naturally picked ... a hip-hop veteran?

If there is an ocean in outer space, then Man or Astro-man? has clearly outsmarted NASA by about 20-plus years and counting. Though traditional surf rock faded with the British invasion, Man or Astro-man? proved that there was still a place for the genre. 

Music news & notes from down in the Willamette valley.

Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford do whatever the hell they want. With Javelin, the pair of musicians explores a variety of sounds, channeling influences from across the spectrum of musical genres. “We were never interested in making a tight, recognizable sound,” Buskirk says. 

Spirit Family Reunion is part of a long line of musicians based in New York City while playing the music of rural America. Like Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan and The Holy Modal Rounders before them, Spirit Family Reunion brings youthful energy and enthusiasm to antiquated sounds.

Rebecca Loeb is a fresh-faced and breezy songwriter with the voice of a pop star. Her sound ranges from indie Americana to confessional ballads to cabaret-style waltzes — encompassing the quirky whimsy of Regina Spektor, the rootsiness of Patti Griffin and the dry wit of Randy Newman.