NPR logo The Sound of Where You Are

The Sound of Where You Are

Portland's local alternative station has one standout show. It's called "The Bottom Forty." It airs Sunday nights and is hosted by Greg Glover. Tonight, on a drizzly evening, I was driving downtown, when I tuned into the show during the middle of a live track. At first I wasn't sure who the band was. After a few more seconds I was able to recognize the voice; it belonged to Bob Mould. I didn't even know the song. The chorus was catchy as is the case with most of Mould's work, but not saccharine. Nor are his songs infectious; they are too full of ache to spin incessantly like little tornadoes in your head. Rather, the songs seize on a moment and wrestle it to the ground; they are intimate and memorable emotional battles, fought and not always won. Mould's songs catch me off guard; they are shadowy tunes that flirt with but don't always find the light of day.

Bob Mould, Sugar, and Husker Du were (or still are) all associated with Minneapolis first and foremost, but only because that was their provenance. Tonight, though, they felt home in the Northwest. Partially because that is where this listener was tuning in, but also because I could hear in Mould's strained voice that of Kurt Cobain's, and the way Cobain's words cracked open as they sang out.

Great music transcends the spot on the map from which it springs forth. But music also captures the nuances and sensibilities of people's lives in a specific place or even becomes a reflection of the city or State itself. Our local bands might be the best example of who we are right now or of who we want to become, or maybe not at all. They might live in Portland and sound like they're from Manchester. So, it's not just the bands who reside in our cities and towns, or who transplant themselves there, that make up the noises that represent our topography or our internal and external landscapes. After all, the chainsaw distortion of Husker Du's guitar sounds conjure the felling of trees as much as Soundgarden embodies our half lit winter months or The Thermals bring to mind a restless frontier.

What musical sounds, what bands, what songs, exemplify the places you inhabit?

For me, in addition to the grittiness of Husker Du, I might also include the crepuscular beauty of Nick Drake and the agitated defiance of The Stiff Little Fingers. Yet I would have to say it is The Wipers, who are from the Northwest (and Portland in particular), who might possess the sound I most closely associate with where I live. Their songs both stab at and harness an unpredictable darkness, one that they are always trying to keep at bay.

The sonic or lyrical exploration and insinuation of place is one reason that music speaks to me. Either it transports me to distant shores, or reminds me of all the reasons why I stay.



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Now headlong into my third Chicago winter, I immediately turn to Mike Kinsella's old band, American Football, and his first solo album. They sounded to me like Chicago would before I had even set foot in the city, and now that I've been here a while, it makes sense. It's a walk from the lakefront, through the bustle and the beautiful and powerful skyscrapers, westward into the windy neighborhoods, and into a dark, cozy bar, away from the elements.

Sent by wdd | 10:42 AM | 12-17-2007

What musical sounds, what bands, what songs, exemplify the places you inhabit?

This is easy for me:

"And This Is Maxwell Street" (

A collection of live performances recorded in 1964 at the Maxwell Street market in Chicago. Filthy Chicago blues made by a lot of lesser-known Chicago blues artists.

The sounds of the electric guitars on these perfomances IS Chicago for me.

Sent by Mick (not "Mick") | 11:47 AM | 12-17-2007

Whenever I get home sick for Madison, WI, I turn on the quirky pop of the German Art Students, the psychedelic noise of Sonmi, or the Pale Young Gentleman, a band I suppose you'd describe as "precious". Oh well.

Sent by Ben | 11:48 AM | 12-17-2007

I'm from Calexico, California, but I currently reside in San Diego. I grew up in this town where thousands of people cross the border everyday. Languages and cultures are blurred. And so it seems appropriate that a band from Tucson, Arizona, who named themselves after my hometown, would create the perfect music to accompany a drive down Highway 111. Palm trees, mexican car insurance offices, and casas de cambio line the streets. "The Black Light" is the album that sounds like my hometown.

Sent by megan | 12:06 PM | 12-17-2007

There is one album that I play each October when the leaves have turned, the frost hits, and the fog rolls through the valley. I don't know if it best exemplifies my neck of the woods, but during this time of the year, I can't resist. It is Black Rider by Tom Waits.

Sent by mikeyj | 12:30 PM | 12-17-2007

I've lived in D.C. for 1.5 years now, and it still doesn't quite feel like home, yet, so I guess my standard answer would be Minor Threat or some Dischord band. Get back to me later on that. (Although, I must say, Dismemberment Plan's 'Change' has proven to be a great soundtrack on the Metro.)

However, in my home state of Georgia, I associate Summer Hymns first two records ('Voice Brother & Sister,' 'A Celebratory Arm Gesture') with the total weirdness of the South. It's red dirt, it's cheese grits, it's tacky lawn ornaments, it's drinking PBR/sweet tea on your front porch on the hottest, most disgusting day of the summer. Zach Gresham really taps into the bizarre nature of southern culture, much like a Flannery O'Connor short story.

Sent by Lars Gotrich | 12:49 PM | 12-17-2007

When driving around the hills and farmland of my area (central and southeastern PA), I find Uncle Tupelo (especially "Still Feel Gone") and The Tragically Hip ("Road Apples," befitting the horse manure of the Amish) to be apt companions.

Sent by diakron | 12:50 PM | 12-17-2007

Wilco's Being There, YHF and A Ghost is Born are distinctly Chicago albums to me, not least of all because that's where I first heard each of them (I forever associate A Ghost is Born with my first apartment, both of which I moved into in June 2004).

Jandek, specifically his earlier work, makes me think of horribly warm and humid climates - something about his music is just dank and unbearable (in a good way). That, and the space between one's ears. He makes for a good voice-in-the-head.

Neil Young, too, is really warm n' humid music to me.

Sent by ljc | 1:12 PM | 12-17-2007

I could characterize my town's sound in music, but none of it would be from here. I suppose a lot of kids here would say that Death Cab for Cutie sounds like here, but it doesn't to me. There are many other bands that capture a dark/near-border/drugs/serial killer haven/amazingly gorgeous and perfect little town where I live and love love love sound better than them.

Sent by Elizabeth | 1:24 PM | 12-17-2007

Austin is made up of transplants frome all sorts of places but all these individuals have made Austin their home. I only landed a few years ago and appreciate that about this city but it makes it a little hard for me to nail down a sound as a "newbie." I left El Paso, Texas at 21 just as I was coming of age and getting deeper and deeper into music. This is a little hard to answer personally. I think daniel johnston's quirky almost manic yet sincere song writing really encompasses alot of how i see austin.
so does roky erickson's music. those were given since both of them come from here.

Being from el paso I discovered the "scene" around 98' when at the drive in was in full force. their music always reminds me of how vibrant i saw my little west texas town along with the Murder City Devils and many older rock n roll bands. It seems my group of friends all grew very found of hunting down records and throwing dance parties around that time

All these are associated with the towns directly and i'm finding it hard to narrow a sound down to my homes. Hmmmm

Sent by esme | 1:26 PM | 12-17-2007

Oh! But of my previous locale, no one feels like the ATL to me more than Ludacris and Erykah Badu.

Sent by Elizabeth | 1:29 PM | 12-17-2007

The Rheostatics manage to sound like Canada. Well...2/3 of Canada, anyway, from Vancouver to Ottawa. East of that: not so much.

Strangely enough the man who managed to sound the most like my home province of Nova Scotia -- folk singer Stan Rogers -- isn't even from there.

Sent by Dan Dickinson | 2:10 PM | 12-17-2007

I've lived in Oregon my whole life, but I don't live in Portland, I live in Beaverton. BEAVERTON! If you've never been there, it really is a nice town to raise your kids in, but horrible if you're trying to uncover any kind of musical evocation. It's just a clean, white-light, Weezer/Everclear community and it makes me think of the Weeds theme song, "Little Boxes."

Passing through the tunnel into downtwon PDX, it always seems to remind me of 1987. Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, The Replacements, The Smiths. Never having actually lived within the city limits, Portland has remained for me a romantic place. Because of this, I think the town feels more like a point in time, rather than a specific band or mood. That's also probably why it seems to be such a "hip" town all of a sudden; people are free to be not only what they want to be, but they can also be when they want to be.

Sent by Jake | 2:38 PM | 12-17-2007

When I want a slice of St. Louis from my high school and college days, it's 3 Merry Widows for the spookiness, One Fell Swoop for the down-home storytelling, and Uncle Tupelo for the withered and lost feeling of turning 20 with limited prospects beyond the barstool.

Sent by Tim | 2:44 PM | 12-17-2007

I'm so proud of the fact that the mighty Killdozer hailed form Madison, and they definitely remind me of the admirable parts of home. But to echo another comment, the German Art Students also remind me of home, as does His and Her Vanities...but oddly enough Graham Smith (of Kleenex Girl Wonder fame[?]) was a student here the UW so his music makes me think of home too, but he's from Illinois, bleh!

that was a great video.

Sent by Jason | 2:51 PM | 12-17-2007

For me, there is nothing like driving through Nashville blasting the Allman Brothers or Three 6 Mafia. Southern rock and hip hop (or rap, if you will) make me feel like I'm home.

Of course there's obviously Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn. And Tina Turner. Bluegrass is amazing, too. I love this state.

Sent by Kathy Ling | 2:55 PM | 12-17-2007

I associate Husker Du with Urbana, IL since I saw them play when I went to college there (I can still remember the set, the lighting, and the friend I went with).

Mould has had a blog since 2004

He also was interviewed by Michael Azerrad as part of the City Arts & Lectures series in San Francisco. The conversation will air on KQED at 8 pm (and 2 am) PT Tuesday, December 18th.

It isn't archived unfortunately, but you can listen to the live stream at

Oh, actually, there is a 30 minute video of it online

But listen to the radio version if you can because it is almost an hour.

It was part of a Talking Music series.

Sent by Steve Rhodes | 3:11 PM | 12-17-2007

Screaming Trees always sound best on a rainy, blustery, darkened gray winter day. Whenever November or January roll around here in Seattle and the windstorms kick up, the Trees find their way to my stereo more than usual. Or, if I find myself driving though a windy Eastern Washington landscape, I can think of no better soundtrack than the Trees. Their sparse, windswept early garage psychedelia simply flows across the high plateaus and vast plains.

Sent by Drew | 3:58 PM | 12-17-2007

Born and raised in New York, where I am now, but my heart is in New Zealand, and no band brings the Antipodes to my mind more than Midnight Oil (The Go-Betweens are a close second). Yes, yes, I know, g-d help me for speaking of the Kiwis and Ozzies in the same breath without a mention of rugby or a joke at the expense of the Australians (and I have a few of the latter, some of which involve rugby, but all in good nature). Back to the point. The Oils played terrifically straightforward rock and roll that sonically may not have been of a particular place (tho' perhaps of a certain time, for me the early-80s to early-90s), but lyrically evoked what it was like to live and hope and despair in Australia. The songs don't just explore or insinuate their subjects ??? they interrogate them. And if you followed Australian politics at the time, you know they were in need of interrogating (at least). But the Oils also wrote love songs to their land: scarcely one goes by without reference to a suffering compass point somewhere on the continent. Occasionally provincial, but always universally instructive and appealing, they are modern protest songs that you could both raise your fist to and dance to (give Peter Garrett credit for moving his 6-foot++ frame to the beat, or for trying at least). I cannot think of progressive politics down under or anywhere else for that matter without thinking of Diesel and Dust or Blue Sky Mining.

Sent by Rich | 4:24 PM | 12-17-2007

Winter in the PNW: Silkworm, 764-HERO, and Modest Mouse (when they still lived in Issaquah)

Summer: Anacortes affiliates

Sent by Jenn | 5:23 PM | 12-17-2007

I live in SW Colorado near the New Mexico border. I listen to a lot of Richmond Fontaine when I am driving through the open spaces. Although they are from PDX, their music is all about isolation. It makes me feel less isolated.

Sent by Jill Jones | 5:38 PM | 12-17-2007

It's such a coincedence that you mention the Wipers! I'm from The Netherlands so I haven't had the pleasure to grow up in a place where many great bands reside. However, I did discover the Wipers years ago (thanks to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's covers of D7 and Return of the Rat) and am a fan ever since. After years of wanting to go, I finally visited the Northwest this past January and driving from Seattle to Portland (yes including a stop at Aberdeen) I listened to Over The Edge, Is This Real? and Youth of America on repeat and everything fell in its place. Never before did any music grab me as much as The Wipers' music did while driving through Washington/Oregon. I'm guessing you probably know what I mean. They're now my favorite band ever. I've booked another Northwest trip this coming summer and can't wait to enjoy my travels on the road especially while enjoying music that reminds me so much of that place (old Sub Pop stuff, K records, and KRS stuff).

Thanks Carrie for writing yet another piece that is entertaining, really recognizable and moving at the same time!

Sent by Joeri | 5:51 PM | 12-17-2007

NYC = Sonic Youth. They didn't need to title a song StreamXsonik Subway to realize that the sounds of the city give them plenty of inspiration.

Sent by Tim F. | 6:15 PM | 12-17-2007

I'm from Detroit and now I live in Brooklyn. In a fit of nostalgia I recently bought the following record: The Hentchman: Henth-Forth, Five. It sure does make me remember those Gold Dollar days.

Here in Brooklyn, I would say A Place to Bury Strangers, Matt and Kim and, although it's kind of clich?? at this point, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's. Everything is a little crusty, a little lo-fi, very loud, occasionally just fun,almost always over the top hip (to the point of parody) and kind of feels like the lights are out. Of course, this is all contemporary. I want it to be Velvet Underground, so badly...... but there are simply too many condos.

Sent by KM | 6:36 PM | 12-17-2007

Great post. I often find myself thinking about this. There are a bunch of records in my collection that, even if I couldn't name the lead singer, I could probably tell you where they're from.

I find it interesting how there are some bands who seem to be totally independent of their city and its scene, and there are some bands who are almost inseparable from it. What would those Wipers records have sounded like if they were an LA band? I can't even imagine it.

Regarding the area in which I live, well, Sonic Youth ARE New York. They're like the east coast Wipers. No other band even comes close to personifying NYC the way they do for me.

Sent by Karissa | 7:26 PM | 12-17-2007

Crepuscular! A vocab word gleaned from Beulahland trivia back in 03! Mind like a steel trap, that Brownstein.

Sent by Emmettino | 7:31 PM | 12-17-2007

As a native DC-er, I would also have to say the Dismemberment Plan. I would add: early Ted Leo and the Rxs, Mary Timony, and Velocity Girl.

Sent by RZ | 7:36 PM | 12-17-2007

I grew up in the South (North Carolina, Georgia, N Florida). Nothing brings to my mind images of the rural south better than early R.E.M records. There is something about the lyrical weirdness, southern drawl, and incoherent mumbling of IRS era Michael Stipe which always brings me back to that period in my life. Then again listening to R.E.M on my Walkman on any and all road trips might have been responsible for this music/image association.

Sent by BTH | 7:44 PM | 12-17-2007

After 2 years the "sound(s)" of Tenerife (Canary Islands) is still difficult for me to pinpoint, sometimes i ride my bike around town late at night and its Augustus Pablo/king tubby thats playing in my head. The other day i listened to John Fahey while doing the dishes and i immediately started having these vivid "midwest roadtrip visions" i got all melancholy and shit for the states but not my own (Cali.) For me , Dub and other oceanic musics capture the vibe of this island, but i think i have brought those intuitions with me because reggae and dub just isnt widely listened to over here but there are a few reggae bands.
This is an interesting topic though, music and place is something i have become really conscious of having moved from the Califonia to a Spanish island of the coast of Africa. Some stuff is weird to listen to over here (explaining that is a lengthy one) but there is definitely music that transcends it place of origin or discovery.

Sent by rodrigo ramos | 7:48 PM | 12-17-2007

My hometown really kinda sucked, so I would probably have to go with The Bare Naked Ladies, or any song that makes me want to forget what just happened and beg for my time back.

Sent by tabb | 7:54 PM | 12-17-2007

The Black Keys = Akron
Pere Ubu = mid to late 70s Cleveland

Sent by Brian | 8:20 PM | 12-17-2007

Growing up in South King County= early Modest Mouse. Issaquah was the big city to some of my friends, but Isaac & Co. sounded just as unhappy with Issaquah as I was with Maple Valley. Winter in the PNW means I listen to a lot of Lanegan, Screaming Trees, and Radiohead when I'm out and around. Because it's generally too crappy to be out and around, wherever I live ends up being my little womb/den, so we listen to a lot of Massive Attack and Sigur Ros.

Sent by Jessica | 8:47 PM | 12-17-2007

Walking through the streets of Cambridge tonight, I passed a packed folk club and a punk band practicing in a basement. Steps from City Hall is the street where Bishop Allen got their name. Independent music of all stripes shakes the walls of neighboring The Middle East and TT the Bear's Place. Rockabilly blasts in Buckaroo's Merchantile next door, while a DJ samples Nirvana at a dance party in ZuZu, and the late night favorite falafel restaurant plays Middle Eastern pop. Street musicians fill in every remaining musical gap. I love the sounds of Cambridge, Mass!

Sent by Cantabrigian | 11:03 PM | 12-17-2007

I grew up in Orange County and have lived in San Diego for the past decade, so the music that I link to this region is punk and ska. Social Distortion, No Doubt, Bad Religion, etc. But that's not really the music that I respond to. That's more heavily from England and the Pacific Northwest, because while I don't like rain much, I like the music made in rainy climes.

As a native Southern Californian, I have loved a lot of music made in LA--the Doors, Beck, Guns N' Roses, Tool. But I've never related to LA except through music and sports.

Sent by Laura E. | 11:13 PM | 12-17-2007

The members of Brand New grew up a few towns away from where I was raised. I never cease to be amazed at how much their music sounds like home to me.

curious question: You're from Seattle, right? If you're familiar with the work of Pretty Girls Make Graves, do they sound like Seattle? I only ask because I'm trying to settle a bet.

Sent by jamie | 2:26 AM | 12-18-2007

Erykah Badu is from Houston not Atlanta to the comment sent my Elizabeth. And by the way? CB is so freekin knowledgable about music. Candi Staton? whoah.. I never woulda thought you'd know about some Staton. CB is tha truth!

Sent by Marissa Dailey | 6:29 AM | 12-18-2007

Hazel, Pond, Team Dresch, The New Bad Things, Golden Delicious, not only bring me right back to 1997, but it always brings me right to downtown Portland, Or.

Sent by Silly796 | 10:15 AM | 12-18-2007

It is unfortunate, but nothing pulls people to Louisville, Ky unless you have a thing for baseball bats or horse racing. It's a little sad to know that at one point in time we had the goods to help shape a person like Mia Zapata. However, we couldn't hold on to her because of the lack of music opportunities.
I know and am friends with many bands in my local area. Most of them play for fun. Not expecting a recording contract to come of it all. Still, my heart goes out to the few that really believe that their music means something to this city. Not because I think they are bad or do not have talent...but because this is an unforgiving city.

but to see through the ick and muck of my city's musical life... Second Story Man - Sugar, Spell it out - Venus Trap -Amherst - Tyrone Cotton are trying very hard to change that fact.

Sent by brittani | 12:00 PM | 12-18-2007

I completely get the Dismemberment Plan association with living in DC. After three years in flyover land, I still get very vivid memories of my years in the Capitol whenever I put on Change.

I haven't really gotten that in KC, and while there are several great bands here, I don't really hear much local stuff that really evokes a sense of place. I will say that when I find myself out in the Kansas plains, Radiohead's Kid A is a pretty cool soundtrack.

Sent by Joel | 1:02 PM | 12-18-2007

Jamie -- my two cents, for what it's worth: even though they hailed from Seattle, PGMG's first record sounded like Fugazi with a female lead singer to me. I think they morphed into more of a NYC-type sound after that.

But I've never even been to Seattle, or that Seattle has a "sound," really. I am still baffled as to why Love Battery and Alice in Chains are grouped in the same "genre".

Sent by Joel | 1:13 PM | 12-18-2007

memphis is an old music town. alot of musicians and sounds that would best be decribed as the sounds you might here coming from stax or hi records. al green is the pastor of a church here. cat power made her last album here with the "memphis rhythm band" which was made up of typical memphis musicians. lots of people here just play music and there are alot of great musicians. also of course there is elvis and the sun records strain. but as far as bands or "indie rock" (in memphis it's actually more like "indie garage/punk") goes, off the top of my head i'd say that jay reatard, harlan t. bobo, jack o and the tennessee tearjerkers, and river city tanlines are the current big ones. i like the limes (shawn cripps, harlan t bobo, paul buchignani)alot and viva l'american deathray music. mr. airplane man used to be here and i liked them alot. lost sounds and nervous patterns were two awesome (now defunct) bands made up of alicja trout (river city tanlines, black sunday, mouserocket) and jay reatard. there was a cool band here that broke up this summer called eldorado and the ruckus. it was made up of 2 guys that worked at sun and played rhythm and blues guitar riffs and were backed up by another guy who did samples and drum machines. i think you could call them "electro blues." they were great. i wish they were still around. currently i'm a big fan of this band called the warble that are rooted in the art college here and don't really sound very "memphis" so maybe they aren't a very good example of the local scene. i love them though. goner records also has a huge influence on the "indie rock/garage" scene..

goner is run by one of the former members of the oblivians, eric. actually jack o (of the tearkerkers) was an oblivian also. the other oblivian greg cartwright did reigning sound which i guess i left out as another big memphis band. they are in hiatus though i think. the oblivians were a 90s band and along with them the grifters and impala were big in the 90s.

Sent by lea | 1:43 PM | 12-18-2007

As a native Clevelander, and resident of the city, it's weird -- there are many successful artists *from* Cleveland, but so few of them evoke "Cleveland" for me. Whereas the bands that *do* sound to me like my hometown aren't from here. Pere Ubu and the Raspberries, although I love them, don't sound like "home." They're just great bands.

One song in particular that always says "Cleveland" to me is "Friday On My Mind." A cover of this song, by West Coast rockers Earthquake, was played every single Friday night at 5:00pm on WMMS for nearly my entire life, along with "Born to Run" and "Cleveland Rocks."

One local band that does evoke home for me is the largely-unknown Michael Stanley Band. They were a major-label act for a time but never really hit it big outside the Ohio/Western Pa. area.

Sent by Phil | 2:16 PM | 12-18-2007

this is such a great post Carrie. and it's a discussion that we denver music scene folks get into regularly in our own little circles and in the media. What is the denver sound? To me, being immersed in the denver music scene (at least my little corner of it), it is a very diverse scene covering many, if not all, genres that typically make up independent music.
Historically though, Denver is most associated w/ Slim Cessna, the Czars, and 16 Horsepower. Both have decendents (Munly, Roger Green/Porlolo, and Wovenhand respectively to name 4). And all bands affiliated w/ this sound have a distinctive dark and somber tone to them. Slim rocks, but it's still dark stuff.

A lot of denver folks don't like this to be the "denver sound", but there are times, when I look over this city and the mountains looming to the west w/ the wind howling and the last glimpses of winter fits for me.

The Tarmints do the same thing for me. They're dark. Restless. With big dirty guitars and pounding drums. This fits w/ Denver...a western town far from anything else.

Sent by ben | 3:41 PM | 12-18-2007

I grew up in Denver and to me it is Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots that evoke something strange in me. Not Denver, per se, but the mythical Denver, the dusty and dangerous Colorado, sepia-toned and real. Which is all very unreal now, which is perhaps why I like it. I'm going to be a cowboy when I grow up.

Sent by chris | 4:14 PM | 12-18-2007

I associate winter in Portland with Talk Demonic. The sounds of the viola and drum captures those rainy day feelings to a tee. Also Decemberists--their storytelling and playfulness is what Portland's all about!

Sent by melco | 5:15 PM | 12-18-2007

east coast = velvets
north west = Built to Spill
so cal = X
Midwest = Replacements
south east - OutKast

Sent by TONESKILLET | 5:37 PM | 12-18-2007

The Meters, The Neville Brothers, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Dr.John will always to me equal New Orleans, Louisiana.
Everyone should go down listen to some live music, eat, drink and pass a good time in my old town.

Sent by HoorayForSaturday | 5:51 PM | 12-18-2007

Jeff Tweedy flows through my veins, despite my pitiful displacement in the South, 800 miles from St. Louis.

Sent by Angela | 6:44 PM | 12-18-2007

Marissa, yes, I should have clarified. I knew Ms. Badu was from somewhere in Texas. I'm pretty sure though that she was spending a lot of time in Atlanta about the same time I was. I actually used to see her out and about every now and then as well.

Thank you though, I do try to be precise.

Sent by Elizabeth | 8:31 PM | 12-18-2007

"Cleveland music" evokes memories of the Euclid Tavern and bands like Craw, Jesus Lizard, Unsane, Duvalby Brothers, and Cop Shoot Cop.

Sent by Dave | 10:58 PM | 12-18-2007

There are not many memorable bands in Iowa but I really enjoy Poison Control Center from Ames/Des Moines area. They have a great powerpop sound.

Sent by Julie | 11:49 PM | 12-18-2007

Lots of Clevelanders on here I'm noticing.

For me nothing says Cleveland like my friends in high school driving around trying to find where Bone Thugs grew up and the Chargers Street Gang song "Every Light on Euclid."

Sent by beth | 9:56 AM | 12-19-2007

I also live in Austin and grew up a bit outside the city which touts itself as the "Live Music Capital of the World." As such, there are so many bands starting, dying, joining up with new people and forming new sounds - it's hard for me to pinpoint any one thing that sounds like Austin. Dallas brings to mind the Polyphonic Spree, Midlake, St. Vincent, and the like; Houston reminds me of a friend's local band that has long since disbanded. But Austin? Perhaps Okkervil River? Maybe my friends the Lovely Sparrows? I can't decide. There's so much here and in so many different genres, venues, etc.

Strangely, out in the towns that surround this city, I have an immediate answer. Iron and Wine recently moved to Dripping Springs, a small town very near the one I grew up in, and to me his ethereal folk exemplifies the feeling of waking up in the Texas Hill Country on an anything-but-summer morning. It's often grey, often a little misty or damp, and usually just cool enough that you could use a sweater; to me that kind of quiet, layered with the sounds of cars on a nearby street and deer rustling around unseen, lost in the cedars, is the real-world equivalent of the sound of Sam Beam's music.

It's interesting to note as well that he just moved here - a transplant who fits the landscape and the towns exactly.

I still can't decide on a sound for Austin, not in today's world. Perhaps I'll just recommend re-watching a few seasons of Austin City Limits. Cop-out? Probably.

Sent by Kirsten Holliday | 11:27 AM | 12-19-2007

Oklahoma here???.

Specifically: Woody Guthrie and the Flaming Lips. Woody for the dark, stark reality that can often be this place, and the Lips for the kind of imagination it takes to transcend that.

Generally: I initially resisted this when I was younger, but now I acknowledge that hearing a well-played steel guitar accompanying a genuine twangy voice is a visceral experience, a big part of whatever it is I am.

Hart/Mould put together some of the best music I've ever heard. 2 great songwriters and musicians.

Sent by bud | 12:05 PM | 12-19-2007

I live in a city that???s still growing into itself. It???s still in transition from a rural race car and bbq kind of place to a real live city so the local music is either country heavy rockabilly or pedal hopping indie rock. There isn???t a defined sound of Charlotte. But I will say that Superchunk sounds like Chapel Hill feels. ???Does Your Hometown Care???? sounds like that long drive from the interstate into town, past the giant crane that always had something seasonal hanging from it, a ghost for Halloween, a baby blue clad graduate in the spring. ???Never Too Young To Smoke??? sounds like The Cat???s Cradle with all the standing around with arms folded and head nodding that goes on there.

Sent by e | 12:14 PM | 12-19-2007

Crepuscular is one of my all-time favorite words. But until recently I???ve only heard it used to describe the daily activities of moose. In addition to Carrie???s Nick Drake descriptive, Maureen Dowd used it in today???s op-ed to describe Fred Thompson: ???Fred Thompson always looks crepuscular and droopy.??? So, crepuscular has been used in conjunction with both Nick Drake and Fred Thompson. I???m not sure how I feel about that. Wait, yes I do. We need to put a hold on its use. I???m afraid it will get over-played and end up in the bargain bin.

Oh, to answer your question on what musical sounds, what bands, what songs, exemplify the places I inhabit? The Dischord label and the aforementioned Nick Drake. Details upon request, there???s absolutely no way I can be brief.

Sent by East Coast Terry | 2:50 PM | 12-19-2007

A few months back, on a road trip to Ohio... I passed by the City of Gary Indiana... and as I passed by that City, I actually had this though... "Is Gary Indiana... the "great" city that it is, Responsible for how the Jackson clan turned out? Or, Is it because of how the Jacksons turned out... that keeps Gary muddled down as the lil dark pollution neighbor of Chicago that it is???"

Sent by Kramer | 6:43 PM | 12-19-2007

My adopted hometown is Nashville, TN. To the world we are largely defined by our very successful brand image, commercial country. Our honky-tonk bars help form our unique feel. However, those of us that live here enjoy a wide range of music offerings. My observation has been that lots of Nashvillians, including the hordes of music business insiders, gravitate toward a more polished, casual, singer-songwriter sound than the commercial country for which we are known. That said, there seems to be a lot of cross-genre appreciation of talent.

Sent by DC | 9:10 AM | 12-20-2007

Portland has had such a huge influence on me musically that it has sort of followed me around since I've left. The local acts that never made it, the ones that did, and the non-local bands I would listen to and see are still a sizable chunk of my collection. Boston, where I now reside, is a city with a great rock history, but I was never really a part of it, even as I grew up in Connecticut. Maybe if I stayed put...
That said, if I'm ever driving through the suburbs of Connecticut by myself, I always think about cranking Pixies cassettes while puttering around in my Suburu back in 1990.

Love the blog.

Sent by Rick | 11:39 AM | 12-20-2007

Modest Mouse, Muse, The Killers, and Stereophonic. No matter which city I'm in, the urban experience come through clearly.

Sent by Bri | 11:47 AM | 12-20-2007

galaxie 500

reminds me of Minnesota for some reason...

Sent by Matt | 8:05 PM | 12-20-2007

The topic of 'place music' brings to mind Georgian Vic Chesnutt who, like several other great artists, I owe my knowledge of to's links. Chesnutt brings a Bill Watterson-worthy sort of animation to most everyone's least loved part of California (am I leaving out L.A.? I believe I am!)

"and the oil is pumping up out of the dirt
those virile dinosaurs continue to squirt
and the mountains lay like croaker sacks
the global forces sculpt with tectonic panache"

Geology grabs me again chez Laura Viers, also linked at Boblog (oozing gratitude, I am):
"Caldera's edge
We'll hold hands and wait
Mudflows are greyhounds Exploding from gates
With hot ash and hot rocks
They'll crash and they'll mosh
'Till the trees are all flat
And we all collapse from the chase."

I would still love this living Left Coast as much without these words but, damn, they make me bottomlessly greatful for these humans. The last datapoint isn't lyrical, but it reminds me to at least dig past the dry crust of pop radio; it comes from a Bellingham record store employee who, when I asked about a drunk-on-De Stijl Detroit duo, said "F*ck those fakers--this is 'ThickFreakness'."

And in an instant I found I loved Akron, as well.

Sent by NSF | 1:25 PM | 12-21-2007

Absolutely beautiful article. I find Pavement to be the sound of Southern California - an ecletic blend and pop, rock, experimental, noise, Beach-boys-on-acid harmonies. Awesome.

Sent by Todd | 3:05 PM | 12-21-2007

Athens,Georgia, to me, sounds jangly and psychedelic. This makes no sense, really, but it's the first thing that comes to mind. Must be all that red-clay dirt.

Sent by haley | 7:23 PM | 12-22-2007

I've lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida for 18 years, and am in college up in the northeast. Every time I hear CCR or Joplin (must say it's pretty seldom, particularly with the CCR) I get a twinge in my chest and call home to check on the family. I suppose I'll always associate that music with unairconditioned buick station wagon rides to the beach, eating those sticky circus peanuts you get at gas stations. Riding in that trunk seat with your back turned to where you're headed, watching the driver behind you sing to the same song you're listening to on your radio, honking at you when you attempt to squeeze him a tiny circus peanut through the only part of the window your short arms can reach.

Sent by Sam | 8:00 PM | 12-22-2007

Above I omit the Vic Chesnutt song title 'Big Huge Valley'; 'ThickFreakness' is by The Black Keys. (Vic rolls, Keys rock.)

For a sense of place, this mensch is currently the NYC leader, in prose and photographic form

Sent by NSF | 2:04 PM | 12-23-2007

Seattle, when punk first arrived. Long before Nirvana, SOundgarden et al. We took speed and went pogoing to the likes of Mental Manikin,Up Chuck,The Fastbacks,The Moberlies, and yeah The wIPERS!

Sent by Russell | 12:48 PM | 12-24-2007

Portland for me will always be the first track of a mix-tape I made in high-school: "down south, 10 hours, I-5" by the all-girl summer fun band. It reminds me of summer at rock camp.

Sent by mandi | 12:29 AM | 12-26-2007

I'm from Toronto

such a mix of sounds - The Rheostatics and of course the Tragically Hip - our new millenium sounds - Billy Talent, Attack in Black, Cancer Bats, Joel Plaksett - and then there's our great past - Murray McLaughlin, Bruce Cockburn, Max Webster, Rush, Goddo, Stompin' Tom

But I think my fondest memories will be my early teen years - sneaking into Blue Peter, Teenage Head, Martha and the Muffins (rockin' show with the B52s), the Viletones, the Sharks - seeing our local bands in little movie theaters converted for bands - the smell of dope and mold and everything black - then there was the flip side, a rock bar with beer and 70's jeans that made all the guys look like Robin with grape in his pocket

as far as music goes we've been lucky up here - bands have been putting us on the list since long before I was born

I never knew how to dress the part - was I punk? rock? folk? new wave?

I think that's it - that's what brings it for me here - we're all a little bit of everything

Sent by sharon | 9:20 PM | 12-26-2007

I'm a Portland guy and was also listening that night. I had some live Mould tracks before and forgot how much I liked it. Forced me to get on line and see what he's been up to lately.

Sent by pete | 11:44 PM | 12-26-2007

I've been following Bob for awhile, love the guy. Did you know he was a writer for the WWE for awhile? He's my favourite bear.


If I had to pick one - Portland to me is overcast and quiet, yet witty and sagacious. So, Rebecca Gates' voice and whole warm guitar sounds with Scotty's intricate tapping.

Answer: The Spinanes

Sent by sharon | 5:15 PM | 1-2-2008

Anacortes, WA: Mount Eerie, Genevieve Castree (amazing!!!), The Oregon Donor and lots of people on K records.

Sent by katherine | 12:28 AM | 1-6-2008

I agree with BTH - particularly growing up in the South in the 1980s: REM, The B-52s, Pylon and X. I live in St. Pete, Florida (where Exene famously quit high school on her 16th birthday) and despite the proximity it's nothing at all like charm-free Tampa. For starters, real estate was so cheap a decade ago, every hipster here bought a house. Most of us are still in bands and we spend our nights on one another's porches or in backyards, sipping iced tea or drinking PBR, listening to music together. It's a very communal place and listening to music here is a very shared event. I think it will be a long, long time before vintage REM or X loses its ability to inspire wonder and singalongs in those of us of a certain age.

Sent by Gina V. | 1:57 PM | 1-9-2008