Release Date: May 26, 2009
Record label: Barsuk
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
A fitting, living tributeHailing from Muscle Shoals, Ala. , but holed up in Portland since 2002, Viva Voce’s Kevin and Anita Robinson have dusty country-folk in their blood and gritty rock on their minds, and they’ve teased out this tension over four progressively darker LPs of dreamy musicality, layered over what could suffice as a lovely, bare-bones husband-and-wife duo. For Rose City, a kinda-sorta homage to their adopted hometown, they’ve brought on locals Evan Railton and Corrina Repp to beef up their sound—not that it needed beefing up, but it’s nice to hear them having fun with some talented pals.
Although their previous effort, Get Yr Blood Sucked Out, was an admirable showcase of Anita Robinson's guitar-shredding psychedelic rock assault, the album itself worked like most Viva Voce releases: an unfocused mishmash of styles simultaneously shot out of a cannon onto a canvas Jackson Pollock- style. Husband and wife duo Kevin and Anita Robinson's habit of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink (with varied results) is something Viva Voce has been slowly shedding with each successive release. Rose City is not only the most unified album of Viva Voce's career, but it also contains the Robinsons' strongest collection of tracks.
One of the reasons people are so fascinated by husband-and-wife bands (or former-husband-and-wife bands) is that we hope that the elusive magic that keeps people together or the visceral drama that tears them apart is audible somewhere in their three-minute pop nuggets. We're hoping to be a fly on the wall of their indie rock domicile. And though those sorts of bands-- from Yo La Tengo and Low to the White Stripes and Quasi-- release wonderful music, we are rarely given an actual glimpse into the intimacy of the relationship that crafted it.
You have to applaud Viva Voce for its effort. Formed in 1998 around husband and wife Kevin and Anita Robinson, the twosome got the ball rolling in Alabama and then spent a little time in Nashville before moving to Portland in 2001. They have since planted deep roots in the community, becoming something of a fixture in the Pacific Northwest scene. The duo’s first label went into liquidation shortly after releasing its 1998 debut Hooray For Now, which resulted in the pair taking some home time to regroup and nurse a young family, but they got back on the horse.