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The Portland/Brooklyn Mix: Hilly Eye

As you may have heard by now (see our last 100 blog posts), the latest issue of Tin House includes a mix-tape featuring bands from our two home cities, Portland/Brooklyn.  Helping curate the east coast side of things was Hilly Eye, whose members, Amy Klein & Catherine Tung, were kind enough to share their thoughts on the music they picked and the city it came from.

All five of the New York boroughs are bursting with music. Musicians are practicing and performing in the subways, in basements, in clubs and bars—in just about any space that will hold them. The music coming out of Brooklyn is receiving a lot of attention right now—perhaps because it is being produced by a particularly young, particularly entrepreneurial set. Competition is stiff, which breeds technical and artistic savvy.

Location feeds ambition. I’ve participated in music scenes in smaller cities—Boston, Philadelphia—and, while many bands are making similar sounds all throughout the country, in Brooklyn, many musicians have that New York sense that their options and potential are limitless. In smaller cities, bands tend to play more for their friends, or for themselves. In Brooklyn, for better or for worse, there is always the sense that fame is within reach.

The Brooklyn “scene” is a bit of a misnomer: our city is so big that there is no single music scene, nor any one signature sound. On any given night in Brooklyn, you’ll find a show focused on punk, another on reggae/ska, another on indie, another on noise. There tends to be less interaction among the genres in Brooklyn than in other cities, simply because there are enough bands in each category that specialization becomes a fine art.

So many iconic genres—punk and hip hop, for instance—were invented in New York City. We’re coming up on the heels of greatness, and the anxiety of influence abounds. Still, big risks are taken, and great music is made. In choosing the songs for the Tin House mix, we didn’t have specific criteria in mind, but we did find ourselves gravitating toward bands that we could relate to. We’ve shared bills with Queening and Shellshag several times. We love the emotion, the complexity, and the energy of their music—the way they mix melody with noise. I first saw Zevious on a trip to Philly; they were playing in a house called Danger Danger. Their drummer is incredible. Their label, Cuneiform, has long been home to avant-garde bands known for pushing limits and taking risks in more cerebral ways—looking to arrangement and songwriting to create excitement, rather than simply cranking up the volume. Fiasco is a young, Brooklyn-raised band that is making a lot of very intelligent noise. TEEN is a dreamy pop ensemble that radiates quiet self-confidence. Magnetic Island melds math rock rhythms with mind-expanding flights of guitar.

We hope that the Tin House mix CD we’ve helped create will offer, in true Brooklyn fashion, room for everyone. — Amy & Catherine

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