In the summer and fall of 1999, the small crowds who caught The Standard’s early performances around Portland, Oregon, knew they were hearing something different�music at once both challenging and engaging, built around surprising chord changes and abrupt shifts in tempo, moving seamlessly from lyrical keyboard passages to blistering guitar hooks, with vocals that ranged from elusive and haunting to intimate and heartbreaking. The air in those rooms was charged, electric, and no one was more surprised by the sudden surge of energy than the four members of the band itself, who’d come together accidentally, each with wildly differing musical backgrounds and influences. Drummer Rob Duncan had learned his driving punk rhythms from Portland indie bands in the mid-90s; bassist Rob Oberdorfer had recently been playing in esoteric art-rock experiments; Jay Clarke, on keyboards, had studied classical and jazz and had a fondness for ambient music; and Tim Putnam combined a rootsy, poetic songwriting style with big, catchy guitar riffs.
Over the next five years, the band released three full-length albums, all recorded by veteran producer/engineer Jeff Saltzman, each making significant strides in maturity and complexity. Along with a growing reputation for intense live shows, the recordings brought critical acclaim and won over a loyal audience, as well as earning the respect of the many musicians The Standard have supported on tour, bands as varied as Wire, The Shins, The Clinic, Slint, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
In October 2004, after eight months on the road, the band returned to Portland to record their latest offering, Albatross. From the start they knew they wanted to approach this album differently�after more than a year in close quarters, living, working and touring together, they’d reached a new level of collaboration and creative understanding. “We wanted the album to reflect how much we enjoy playing together,” Tim Putnam says. They decided to record the new material themselves, first in a rented practice space, and later in Rob Oberdorfer’s basement, and rather than labor over each piece for months before putting it on tape, they wrote and recorded simultaneously.
The resulting songs are spontaneous, straightforward and introspective. The lyrics, personal and emotionally direct, explore both the trouble and the joy in life. Built around clean lines and concise melodies, the music surprises at every turn, at times delicate and spare, often vigorous and energetic.Albatross is an album that solidifies The Standard’s unique sound, showcasing a cohesive and clear vision that marks a new stage in the band’s evolution.