Pop sensibility part of Portland musician’s ‘chemical makeup’

Posted June 10, 2014, at 11:56 a.m.

This is a first for me in the nearly nine years I’ve been writing this column. One guy, who is in two bands, has two brand new albums coming out within one week of each other. Is he a crazy creative workaholic, or is this just a coincidence?

The musician in question is Portland singer and guitarist Tyler Jackson, and the bands are the infectiously melodic indie-pop band Foam Castles and the driving, pop-flavored indie-punk ensemble Endless Jags. The new Endless Jags album, “Sell the Banquet,” will be released June 17, and the new Foam Castles album, “Through That Door,” will be released via Teen Arena Records on June 24.

“I guess it’s a combination of all those things, just playing music all the time — and that being the thing I do with pretty much all of my free time — and the fact that we’ve been working on both albums for so long,” said Jackson, 27, a native of Monmouth. “In the end, it’s just a coincidence that it happened this way. It wasn’t planned, but it’s all come together perfectly.”

Foam Castles has been Jackson’s main project since 2007, which he started when he was still a student at the University of Southern Maine. “Through That Door” is his fourth Foam Castles album, after “Molly’s Jungle” in 2010, the “Come Over To My House” EP in 2011 and “Bonanza” in 2012. Although he has worked with a number of other musicians on the project, it’s essentially all his; he writes all the songs and is the primary voice.

Foam Castles is indie pop at its crystallized best — bright, summery melodies paired with spritely acoustic guitar and waves of reverb-drenched guitar and keyboard sounds. There are shades of Olivia Tremor Control and the Zombies, though there is a bit of 90s alt-pop in there too.

“That pop sound is something that’s part of my chemical makeup,” said Jackson, who grew up obsessed with bands like Weezer and Nirvana, before moving on to bands and artists like Guided By Voices, John Cale and Brian Eno. “It comes through in everything I write, I think. I can’t help it.”

Endless Jags is the darker flip side of the pop coin, however. Foam Castles is gentler, breezier, shinier, but there’s something terse, agitated, even angry, at times, about Endless Jags. The six-person combination of guitarist and vocalist Jackson, co-vocalist and guitarist Oscar Romero, guitarist Derek Gierhan, bassist Justin Grady, farfisa organ player D.J. Moore and drummer Jonas Eule makes a big, powerful sound, one that surges like fellow large indie rock bands like Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers.

“Oscar and Jonas and Justin are all punks from way back in the day. They all love rock and pop and the things I love as much as I do, but they are definitely more oriented towards the harder edged stuff,” said Jackson, who also plays with Moore and Romero on the Foam Castles album. “What I love about it is that it’s really a truly collaborative process when we write songs. It’s very empowering to have less direct input, because it helps to create new ideas. It keeps you being creative.”

A record release party for Endless Jags’ “Sell the Banquet” is set for Friday, June 20 at the Space Gallery in Portland with guests Fat Creeps and Rough Francis; a record release party for Foam Castles’ “Through That Door” is set for Saturday, June 28 at Bunker Brewing in Portland with guests Hallelujah the Hills and Fur.

Emily Burnham may be reached at eburnham@bangordailynews.com. Check out her blog at cultureshock.bangordailynews.com.

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