Powerpopaholic turned me on to Porter Block’s latest album Hard to See Beautiful, and particularly the wonderfully lush single, “Long Gone.” So I decided to take a stroll down Porter Block lane. Wow, what a catalogue! Over six albums and one EP Porter Block have produced a polished, subtlely hooky, sometimes amusing body of work. Mostly the work of duo, Peter Block and Caleb Sherman, the band defies easy categorization or comparison. Early 1980s melodic poprock like Marshall Crenshaw maybe, or amongst contemporaries perhaps Pete Yorn. One thing I really like about the band is their unabashedly commercial bent, commercial in the sense of polished and pristine in performance and musical adornments. Again, in the early 1980s this was not exceptional as a host of great songwriters and poprock bands were keen to seduce audiences with every slick sound they could (think Split Enz, the J. Geils Band, the Cars, etc.). What set them apart from more vacuous and contrived commercial output were the songs and the heart. Porter Block are a lovely return to these values. Wonder About MeSolitary HotelDie a Little Every DayLong Gone
I’ll admit, my first pass through the catalogue was selective, just four songs: “Wonder About Me” from their 2007 debut Suburban Sprawl, “Solitary Hotel” from the 2007 EP of the same name, “Die a Little Every Day” from 2010’s Peter Block, and “Long Gone” from this year’s Hard to See Beautiful. At first listen, I thought they were nice, bordering on pretty good. But after a week on replay their subtle hooks had gotten under my skin – pretty good became pretty great. So I went back for more. There’s too much to share here but there are a few songs you’ve just got to hear, like the hilarious “Lars,” the folk/country “Blackberry Girl,” two stellar vocal performances from Gowanis Yatch Club, and the John Waite “Missing You” period sound of “True Enough” and “Second Wind.”LarsBlackberry GirlMorning Finds YouMoving Around the SunTrue EnoughSecond Wind
Porter Block leave a light footprint on the internet, though they do have a Facebook page. Such melodic talent really deserves closer scrutiny. You can watch a short video about the making of their latest record here, featuring producer and poprock wunderkind Mike Viola.