The Best Musical Soundtrack for Exploring the Oregon Coast
By Andre' Hagestedt
(Oregon Coast) – First of all, let's get it straight: I have been a professional music critic/writer for almost 20 years, and a classically trained musician before that. So expect pomposity. Yes, music is, by and large, a very subjective thing. And sure: driving around the Oregon coast and sucking in the sights to whatever tunes are on your car stereo is undoubtedly right for you. That's grand. (Above: School of Seven Bells, photo Andre Hagestedt)
However, I'm going to go back to my roots as a music critic and suggest you may be wrong – and these artists are better for the drive.
Just deal with it - and read on. Plus, you'll learn something - and get exposed to something other than the snooze-inducing stuff you're spoonfed by U.S. record companies.
So, if you like the likes of Brittany Spears, Madonna, Lady Gaga, LMFAO, down to the highly overrated sub-artistic strata of Nirvana, The Beatles, various genres of hippie rock, Pearl Jam, sloppy 80's rock, et al, you should probably stop reading now. I'm going to strongly suggest something else. In fact, I'm going to insist.
Astoria: For me, Manic Street Preachers does the trick, especially the second album “Gold Against the Soul.” That raucous mix of metal and punk rock with mentally demanding chord changes, melodies and complex rhythms can't be beat, frankly. It's like Prog meets Johnny Rotten, but actually with something important to say. Most of all, that vibrant energy that permeates their 1993 album I think matches driving by those magnificent, soaring monuments that happen left and right in an insanely cool manner.
Warrenton through Gearhart: The soundtrack to this area really should be the vibrant, ultra-intellectual sounds of David Sylvian, especially his work with Robert Fripp (King Crimson). Also, Mark Isham (hovered in circles of Zappa and Missing Persons, but not in those bands) works here as well, with that atmospheric trumpet and synthesizer work.
Seaside: For a longtime, Portland band Red Footed Genius typified Seaside for me, at least in the 90's, because of a very catchy song called “Seaside.” Now, Scandinavian electronica band The Knife really sonically represents this town better than most, especially the hypnotic “Heartbeats” song. Also, neo-prog band Mew somehow fits wandering around here as well.
Cannon Beach. The spirit of Manic Street Preachers again seems to portray this town in many ways, especially the Bach-meets-metal vibe of their first hit, “Motorcycle Emptiness.” Head a bit south to overlooks like Silver Point or mysterious Arch Cape, and then you've got to suck in School of Seven Bells' seriously psychedelic song “White Elephant.”
The Arch Cape tunnel and parts of Oswald State Park also seem to demand the pretty, twinkly sounds of the Peter Murphy (ex-Bauhaus architect) album “Cascade.” Neahkahnie Mountain, especially at night, will also feel more than a little appropriate for this as well.
Before Manznita, along rustic Highway 53, Jethro Tull's more medieval-sounding works turn this primitive forested drive into a cinematic experience (like their albums Minstrel in the Gallery, Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses or Storm Watch).
Manzanita: I have reveled in Florence and the Machine numerous times up on Neahkahnie Mountain, dancing like a maniac in the dark when no one was watching. Also, checking out the sweeping sights here while listening to the soul-meets-electronica of Scottish band The Blue Nile is truly satisfying here as well.
Wheeler and Nehalem Bay. David Bowie's song “Heroes” seems the most appropriate approach – musically – for this area. That mesmerizing hypnotica of Robert Fripp's guitar, mixed with Brian Eno's esoteric synth production, plus the whole minimalist approach of the song; well, it's the perfect background to checking out this charming burgh and majestic bay. There's also a song by Portland band Everclear about Nehalem. But who cares?
Rockaway Beach: The Ramones. Sure their song was about the New York state version of the town. But did I really need to say this?
Garibaldi and Tillamook Bay. Yes – that is to say, the band Yes. Don't know what it is, but the surreal lyrics and ultra-complex compositions of the band's mid 70's albums (Going for the One, Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans) simply work with that landscape the best.
Oceanside. For some reason, French rocker CharlElie Couture just works best around here. Wildly eclectic and literally all over the place musically, he's anywhere from oddball French folk tunes to introspective soul and esoteric experimentations with blues, hip hop and heavy metal. But wow, Couture comes up with some beautiful ballads that just click with this scenery.
Pacific City. This place always makes me hum the Dharma Bums - a seminal Portland band. Long story why. But also, it works. Lots of the big Seattle explosion bands used to open up for them in the late 80's. I still think Dharma Bums are better than those overblown groups anyway.
Neskowin. 80's synthi-pop band Erasure and their vaulting “Oh L'Amour” seem to sum this place up best. Maybe it's because of my memories of an old girlfriend there.
Lincoln City. How can you NOT think of local musician Henry Cooper when you think of this town? The blues monster was part of Duffy Bishop's band for ages and now lives on the central Oregon coast. He's even got a song about Road's End, which we used in a video about Lincoln City.
Depoe Bay. Again, Manic Street Preachers spring to mind, but this time their “Holy Bible” period in '95. One of the darkest albums of all time, its gut-wrenching lyrics and metallic, almost King Crimson-esque drama perfectly match those monster waves that pound downtown Depoe or Rodea Point.
Newport. Something about this central coast town just demands a soundtrack for richly orchestrated jazz (like Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra album from 1966) or raucous Celtic music like Tempest or Jethro Tull. They impart a sense of misty history as well as vibrant beauty. Also, electronica wizards Teddy Bears tug at me around here, with their quirky, slightly twisted musical visions.
Yachats and southward. For me, much of this area looks even better while listening to School of Seven Bells, the amazing electronica rig out of the east coast. Especially their more experimental works of their first album. But the more dance-centric stuff of the last two albums is a good excuse to dance next to your car while hanging out in the parking lot of places like Strawberry Hill or Cape Perpetua. Try it. You'll see.
Near Cape Perpetua - Cook's Chasm.
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