Band of the Week: Jared Mees and the Grown Children

As if KZUU did not have enough reason to love record label Tender Loving Empire, owner Jared Mees’ latest project reminds us why the Portland-based label will remain a favorite.

Only Good Thoughts Can Stay, the sophomore album from “Jared Mees and the Grown Children,” is filled with the childlike optimism, ecstatic choruses, and clap-driven beats that are becoming popular in the shaping Portland scene.

On “W.W.J.B.D.,” Mees begs “why can’t music always be this pure?” a statement that illustrates the album perfectly. Rooted in indie-rock, but laced with country-folk, Only Good Thoughts Can Stay is driven by Mees’ band of bards. His voice soars high with a sort of quailing quality, and the instrumentals carry you through the album like a marching band, with a focus on trumpets, cymbals and an upbeat piano. A palm muted Gibson guitar underlays every track with chord progressions evocative of the classic punk-rock Mees says played a heavy influence in his songwriting.

But to be clear, this is not a punk album. Punk themes of skepticism and the counter-culture face off with notions of childhood friendship and love that are almost too cute for their own good. The power chord influence translates into a “folk-riot” sound, evocative of artists such as The Films or Family of the Year.

There isn’t much variety here, but rather a consistent feeling of both joy and anxiety that bridges each track. His lyrics are memorable, quickly turning every song into a sing-along for listeners. This is most visible on the closing track “Shake,” where a repetitious chorus reminds listeners of those old pre-school hymns, and layers that feeling beneath a heavy array of trumpets, snare drums and harmonies. “Holy hallelujah, I’m losing hold,” Mees proclaims on “Juicy Fruit,” lamenting the cynical reality that comes with adulthood.

A warm yet distant charm that comes with the innocence and naivety of childhood composes the golden heart of Only Good Thoughts Can Stay; recognizing the value of youth and mourning its swift passing in life. It may not be an album for children, but it will, if only for a brief moment, make you feel like one.

-Josh

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