Artist of the Week: Portland Singer/Songwriter Nick Jaina
But then another reality sets in: there are plenty of great indie, alternative, DIY, and under-the-radar artists and bands that have been around for a long time (or not as long) that we still haven’t heard yet. It’s impossible to follow everything, especially when you’re talking about the world of indie and alternative music. Time and time again, the evidence proves that the music industry, together with the mainstream culture and media, misses a lot of amazing music.
Such is the case with this week’s Artist of the Week. Portland musician Nick Jaina should be a more familiar name to indie music lovers than he currently is. While he has gained a lot of mileage from the fact that he has opened for bands like The Decemberists, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, Jaina is still not a “household” name among indie music lovers as much as he should be. Jaina’s array of talents run the gamut from his beautiful songwriting and impressive instrumentation to his warm vocals and prolific body of work. He possesses all of the abilities and characteristics of a truly gifted musician.
With a penchant for melodies and an intricate song craft, Jaina’s musical core springs from his primary niche – indie folk art. On May 7th, he released his newest album, Primary Perception via Fluff and Gravy Records. The LP includes the terrific standout tracks, “Don’t Come to Me” and “These Fair Hands.”
“Don’t Come To Me” – Nick Jaina from Primary Perception
“These Fair Hands” – Nick Jaina from Primary Perception
With a need to hear more of his discography, we went back through Jaina’s Bandcamp page, and ended up listening to his 2011 album, A Bird In The Opera House, three times from start to finish. While his newest album is a bit more pop and rock oriented, A Bird In The Opera House is slanted considerably towards the folk art sound, where Jaina seems most comfortable, and where he clearly shines. In fact, going back even more and listening to his older releases, we can see why he was chosen by The Decemberists as an opening act. While comparisons to The Decemberists would be misguided, Jaina’s musical compositions and his story-telling artistry are very much influenced by, and in alignment with, the Pacific Northwest folk art tradition.
In addition to being featured in Northwest publications like KEXP, The Portland Mercury and Willamette Week, Jaina has also been profiled in national pubs like Spin and Impose, and even NPR. His career is about as varied as one artist’s can be – from writing ballet music in Brooklyn to composing film soundtracks in Los Angeles to developing theatrical scores in New Orleans.
It was hard to pick only a few of songs from A Bird In The Opera House since we like them all. That’s always the true test of an album masterpiece – when you struggle to pick out the standout tracks among a stack of standout tracks. That said, we’ve included the opening track, the dreamy reflecting of “Sebastopol,” with it orchestral backdrop, followed by the melancholic beauty of “Days In My Room,” to the joyous, hook-filled sentiments of “Semoline.” You can also stream or buy the album via Bandcamp – perhaps you’ll have your own favorites among a stellar collection of songs.
“Sebastopol” – Nick Jaina from A Bird In The Opera House
“Days In My Room” – Nick Jaina from A Bird In The Opera House
“Semoline” – Nick Jaina from A Bird In The Opera House
A number of terrific singer/songwriters come to mind while listening to Jaina’s discography, including Andrew Bird, Mark Kozemel, Chris Martin, Sam Amidon, Matt Pond PA, Leonard Cohen, and Matthew Dear. Therefore, if you are an admirer of one or more of those artists, chances are Jaina will strike a chord with you, and his splendid compositions together with his touching vocals will likely stay with you.
If you download (worth every dollar) and listen to both albums – A Bird In The Opera House and his latest, Primary Perception, and spin them a number of times, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion as we have – that is, Jaina is an under-appreciated songwriter, musician and vocalist compared to the extensiveness and breadth of his talent. He’s simply a genius.
In a way, it’s good that his name is not more recognizable – in fact, it can be our little secret, since, as some of you know, we regularly post talented under-the-radar and DIY musicians and bands that get little to no coverage online. While highlighting relatively unknown artists has become our niche and identity within the indie music blogosphere (and we couldn’t be more thrilled about that), it’s really artists like Jaina that make that possible. And that’s what we’ll keep doing because there are far too many incredible artists and bands that are simply not covered adequately on the web.