Sunday, November 24, 2013

Norman - Into The Eventyr

Even in the digital age, we have misconceptions about the geography we reside.

For example, I've never been to Portland, Oregon. My knowledge is based on episodes of Portlandia and from the Loretta Lynn song "Portland, Oregon" from the album she did with Jack White.

Oh, and from a friend who lives in the Eugene area, but spent a few years in Portland working the door of some hipster place. He came back to Iowa over the summer with a full beard and an attitude of "I don't listen to much rock music these days. I mainly listen to classical."

So based on these things, you can probably deduce that I am an expert on all thing Portland, which makes me, by default, dislike Portland, Oregon while still maintaining a vast amount of love of Loretta Lynn, even though the old dame just cancelled a show here in town this month.

As a Portland expert, I imagine there are a lot of bands that sound like Norman in the Portland area: Neil Young loving, flannel wearing beer drinkers with an impressive amount of facial hair, rock chops and an impossibly difficult path in front of them if there's an even remote chance of breaking out of the Pacific Northwest.

This isn't a slight against Norman, particularly upon hearing their third offering, Into The Eventyr, a home-brewed effort with so much Beaver State ethos flowing through its grooves that they're tying the release of the album to a batch of beer. Meaning: if you buy a batch of the beer, you get a download code that enables you to snag Into The Eventyr, provided you're not drunk enough to figure out the "Save To File" window that pops up when you visit the website on your laptop.

And this isn't a slight against their marketing campaign either, which I'm sure at least three pints of pale ale would make Into The Eventyr sound about as good as Harvest (as the press release would try to convince you to compare it to), or at least an early My Morning Jacket record (which it actually does compare to).

To be honest, there are plenty of cynical things you could probably utter about Norman, including the ridiculous album title (think "adventure"), but there are very few negative things that you can say about it after giving it a worthy listen. The band easily flows between accessible lite rock and southern rock worship with a great amount of credibility in either direction.

Vocalist Eric Nordby is capable of a wide range, but very little in terms of distinct personality. His role does little to distinguish Norman from beyond the 503, but then again, anyone outside of that area code would be proud to front a band as seemingly good as this band appears to be.

Opener "Hawk" and the kinetic "Ruby Sun" find the band making attempts to break the mold of their surroundings while tracks like "Ventura" and "Golden" find Norman dwelling around their collective comfort zones with such efficiency that you can't hardly blame them for staying put.

Into The Eventyr may end up being nothing more than a solid collection of 11 tracks that get under the skin of the Oregon residents that probably have an opportunity to see them in a dive this weekend. Their future may indeed be overly reliant on those who venture outside of the state, occasionally trickling in other directions thanks to the memories and record collections of transplants forced to leave OR for whatever reason. It also manages to hint that those memories were probably fueled by a very real prowess, a fact that is honestly represented on Norman's third.

In other words, Into The Eventyr is a very distinctive craft brew with elements suitable for a wide array of palates, even though its marketing efforts-like the ones being implemented with Norman's brewery friends-are designed to appeal to the same crowds of the Pacific Northwest faithful.

Hopefully, they can rock some sense into my public radio loving friend's ass, because the only classical music that dude listened to before moving to Oregon was Yngwie Malmsteen.

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