TVD Premiere: Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Worker’s
Comp, Volume II

It may be a wretched pun to say coffee shop employees nowadays get a lot of perks, but some outfits are now offering its baristas and staff everything from company stock and free college tuition to one-day racial sensitivity training.

Portland’s Stumptown Coffee employs enough musicians to feature their bands on exclusive compilations. Its Workers Comp Vol. I, recorded live in the original shop on Division Street in Southeast Portland, came out in 2001, just a couple of years after the roaster was founded.

By now, Stumptown has expanded to Ace Hotels, with shops in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans. So it follows that the long-awaited Workers Comp Vol. II features a wider geographic array. Eleven bands hailing from New York and L.A. as well as Portland were flown out late last year to record with producer Mike Coykendall at the Map Room in Southeast Portland.

Out May 25 via Sub Rosa Curation on vinyl—as well as limited edition coffee vinyl— Workers Comp Vol. II is also making its debut today here at TVD. In addition to being a better than average compilation showcase, it may cause the mother company some worry—as talented as these bands are, how long can they be expected to still keep pouring cold brew?

Workers Comp begins with the L.A. psychedelic rockers Dommengang whose “Past Lives” has a slash and swagger. The band, part of the Thrill Jockey roster, opens some shows for Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks this summer. They are followed by the shimmering guitar echoes and more harmonious voices of Portland trio The Tamed West.

Another trio from the City of Roses, White Glove got some attention a couple of years ago for its anti-Portlandia anthem “Fred and Carrie.” Their “Gilded Wizard” begins all Fleet Foxes-like and ends with the seeming hoofbeats of an invading army and the tones of a Farfisa organ. “Does this sound shitty?” someone says at the end. Not at all.

The New York band Midnight Calls builds from an acoustic start for its “Sweet Dreams” that hits a rocking wallop soon enough. Things get funkier with the track from Jiharri Terry’s “Up Down,” with a snaky baseline, woozy synth, and repeated robotic countdown.

A truckload of mid-’70s rock and snarl is found in Uncle Hornet’s self-referential “Uncle Hornet Flies Again.” Twangy surf guitar and a dance beat combine in Little Racer’s mid-tempo “We’re Here” that suggests a Pavement vibe. Longclaw’s solid rocking “Tower” from Portland brings not only some of the few female vocals on the compilation, but an upending of an old rock trope. “We built this city …to burn!”

Another Portland band, Broodmare, delivers the closest thing to hardcore with the yells and complicated drum patterns of “Dirt Fetish.” Brooklyn’s “Giant Peach” bring the college rock emo on “The Weight of Leaving” and the whole thing winds up with another Brooklyn band called Ghastly City Sleep which begins dreamily before building to a heady feedback laden reverie with its eight-minute “Oceanview.”

And I needn’t tell you what kind of beverage is required in order to snap out of ghastly city sleep.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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