I was a little intimidated when I first turned on Crooked Bars’ self-titled EP. The Portland quartet describes its sound as being heavy in jazz influences, and it is, in fact, jazzy. Perhaps jazzier than anything in my music collection. Just by clicking the “play” button I was venturing into the unknown (insert hyper-dramatic musical transition here).
What struck me about the EP from the get-go is that it sounds very organic. It’s clear that Crooked Bars hasn’t run their music through a computer 15 times before deeming it worthy to distribute, and that should certainly be admired. The EP has a live feel to it. It’s the kind of music that can translate from recording to live performance very fluidly. The syncopated rhythms and little bit of a funk beat of “Plants and Trees” make it easy to imagine kicking back in a jazz club as you listen.
While their music is clearly predominantly jazz-influenced, it’s easy to see the Crooked Bars is working elements of other genres into their sound, like they made one big happy musical stew. “Oh Lord” is the closest to rock (with a pinch of country) the EP gets with its jangling rhythmic guitar throughout. “Ups and Downs” took me by surprise bringing in some rockabilly for the verses, but sliding right into that jazz base for the choruses.
Crooked Bars has something unique going on, and I’m certainly interested to hear what they come up with in the future.
The EP is available for free download here.