Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside: “Party Kids”
Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve found it. (“Found what?” you must ask, patiently, yet slightly annoyed at such a cryptic statement.) Best Record of the Year (So Far), that’s what. Yes, the new album from Portland’s Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside is one of those rare albums that clicked for me right from the first listen. One of those albums that has everything just right: the songs, the performance, the recording. Everything fits into place on Ford’s new Untamed Beast album (her second) just like that. Released just last month, this rootsy, garage-y album sits comfortably alongside the best of the Detroit Cobras, but that’s not exactly an apt comparison, since all the songs are originals, whereas the Cobras do primarily covers. But the energy level and singing performance of Sallie Ford is right up there with the Cobras’ Rachel Nagy, and that’s quite a compliment. Ford does have some peculiar vocal mannerisms (you might call them affectations, but it seems like she can’t help them) that I imagine wouldn’t work for everyone, but chances are good that you’re going to enjoy Untamed Beast.
Now before you go and start playing this album at full blast around your kids or younger siblings, just be forewarned: if Untamed Beast was a movie, it would most certainly be rated PG-13, if not R — Ford tends toward the lusty and bawdy in her lyrics. Which is part of the charm, in a way, especially when you see them live, as I did last Thursday night at Neumo’s in Seattle, opening for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Sallie Ford is immediately likable and comes off all cute and innocent — until she starts singing, and then you get the full picture. She’s got tons of power behind that voice, and she sounded great at the show. My only wish was that she could have let herself go physically the way that Thao Nguyen did in the following set (more on that tomorrow or Wednesday): while Ford’s vocals never suffered, her stage presence seemed reserved. Once she can relax a bit more up there, her shows are going to be remarkable events.
“Party Kids” is one of the most single-ready songs on the album — it seems just one half-step more polished than the other songs around it. But it’s the catchy melody and steadily building propulsion of the song that really makes it stand out from an album full of excellent songs. So listen up, crank it up, and then check out the rest of Untamed Beast — it’s the sound of an act truly hitting their stride.