Warm, enveloping, and radiantly expressive, Porlolo’s intimate new EP ‘No Praise, No Blame’ feels like a snapshot of the soul.
Stream: “Ain’t No Use” – Porlolo
As with all Porlolo records, this collection of songs is intended to capture and document a time and place while also hitting on timeless themes and emotions that resonate deeply with listeners.
Warm, enveloping, and expressive, Porlolo’s intimate new EP feels like a snapshot of the soul. Celebrating connection and vulnerability at once, No Praise, No Blame radiates heat as the band’s blend of alt-country and indie rock come together with stylish verve and just a smidgen of reckless abandon.
There’s no use cryin’ ‘bout the things you lost
No use crying ‘bout the ones you tossed
Turn your head back now from where you came
Don’t let the tame ones wear out your name
Lay your head down on my knee
Look me straight in the eye
Tell you one thing that I’ll never be –
It’s good at saying goodbye
I felt shame for the things that I wanted
I felt maimed by the terrible drought
I caught you wishing on an old, dead star
Lying down in the back of your car
I marked you down as a lightweight
You knocked me out the first round
Still haven’t learned one single thing
About how to keep you around
– “Ain’t Not Use,” Porlolo
Independently released May 21, 2021, No Praise, No Blame arrived this Spring as Porlolo’s first EP in three years (since 2018’s Awards) and a welcome return from the Colorado indie outfit. The musical project led by Erin Roberts, Porlolo began in Denver in 2002 and has been on a constant journey of discovery ever since. “The three-track Awards EP delivers a pristine blend of sweet folk and evocative indie rock,” Atwood Magazine wrote back in 2018, “finding Roberts in peak songwriting fitness as she dives deep into personal experience to deliver a song that truly anyone and everyone can cling to – for hope, guidance, and so much more.”
It may feel like a little while since Awards‘ release, but Porlolo has been anything but complacent over the past few years. “This EP was the first I recorded in a long time as a full band – Porlolo has been playing live with a consistent lineup of Anna Morsett (Still Tide, guitar tech for Tallest Man on Earth), Jake Miller (Still Tide) and Joe Richmond (crew for Bon Iver), but most of the records I’ve made in the past were more solo efforts bringing in session players as needed. Because the bandmates have other bands and busy tour schedules (and I have young kids) it took awhile to get us aligned with recording dates,” Erin Roberts explains. “Additionally, we recorded with James Barone, who I’ve worked with on the last handful of EPs and singles. James plays in Beach House and also records Nathaniel Rateliff so has a lot going on. He is an amazing producer and engineer that I single handedly credit with making the Porlolo records sound the way they do in my head. You know when you hear yourself talk on tape as a kid and your own voice freaks you out? Like there’s no way that could be you? That’s how I felt hearing Porlolo before I worked with James, and then everything he’s produced for Porlolo fits with how I hear and see the band. He’s a genius and so good at what he does.”
“We’d only been playing one of the songs – ‘Medic’ – live. So the others we worked out while in studio. Two were written just days before the studio session – ‘Ain’t No Use’ and ‘God’s Punishing Hands’. I had some older songs that we’d actually been playing live, but last minute threw these brand new ones in the mix because fresh is fun. We finished this record in February of 2020 right before the world shut down from COVID and we got a real hypercolor look at all sorts of inequity and pain. I sat on the recording for a while, not wanting to dilute important messaging and activism, particularly about racial justice, that was at the forefront of conversation. I wondered if I would ever put this album out, it felt so insignificant. I felt, and still feel, that all the wrong people are allowed a microphone.”
“But then I also got to a point early in 2021 where in addition to feeling the devastation of the last year, in addition to focusing time and energy on activism and change, I wanted to feel all the other things too. I missed the range of emotions and feelings that come with everyday interpersonal interactions and community. So I came around to the idea of releasing this album. I do believe that art and music are the cultural glue and the magical stardust that keep us sane and connect us to each other in powerful ways.”
I hope that Porlolo can continue to bring people a little joy and good heart feelings as we get to work on our giant, broken world.
Consisting of four tracks and clocking in at just under fifteen minutes, No Praise, No Blame is a quick peak under Porlolo’s hood – yet each of its songs resonates with a beat of its own, showcasing the best this band has to offer melodically, lyrically, and more.
“I’m not sure if I had a specific vision for the record, other than to honor each song as its own and let the songs lead the way,” Roberts reflects. “My favorite part about being in the studio is seeing what my bandmates and collaborators add to the songs, and then all of the moments when the production takes an interesting turn and gives the song a definitive personality. I don’t like to work it all out in advance of the studio, but instead let a lot happen in real time. Having worked with James Barone on two EPS and some singles in the past, I knew I’d be able to bring in some song skeletons and come out with something huggable and cohesive and with a sound true to Porlolo’s personality.”
For Roberts, No Praise, No Blame builds on Porlolo’s ever-growing catalog of colorful and idiosyncratic releases – capturing the synergy of the current lineup and the additional creativity and vision of producer/engineer James Barone. “I think No Praise, No Blame captures the real, deep friendship between bandmates and the intensely collaborative nature of the band. It captures the artistry of each player and there are so many moments in the record that I could point out the influence of each person.”
While highlights abound, Roberts is quick to point out the lyrics of the EP’s third and fourth tracks. “I really love the lyrics in ‘Medic’, because they communicate a real story and emotion while not losing the cadence or melody of the song. I also love the lyrics of ‘God’s Punishing Hands ‘- even though it’s more a collection of words – because each word nods to a very distinct memory from my past. Will anyone else resonate with a bunch of random words that may only carry meaning to me? We’ll see.”
Stole all the laces
To your favorite shoes
Just to keep you here
But maybe I cut you loose
Out in the backyard
Lying in the grass
Your bare feet in the sun
And your body a mess
Send you a medic
Send you a priest
Call your momma, Baby
To get what you need
Open a bottle
Open one more
I spent too long counting on you
To let you go
– “Medic,” Porlolo
For Roberts, it’s the little nuances that make this EP so special. “There are so many highlights for me that are specific snapshots of the recording process,” she beams. “I love Anna’s bass line in Ain’t No Use, it sets the tone for the whole song, whole record(!). I love thinking about the shaker in the beginning of Ain’t No Use, how Joe wanted to just start shakin’ it and edit later, and how James wanted him to start at the exact place. And how the addition of the Unisynth in that song gave it a mission. Andreas Wild’s clarinet parts in ‘God’s Punishing Hands’ are so heartbreakingly beautiful. And Jake’s slide part in that song also captured the loneliness I wanted to project.”
“Every chance I get to collaborate with these particular friends is a highlight for me. I feel like each person involved in this record has shaped me so profoundly and inspired me to keep making music. I owe so much to them. It’s hard for me to even think of this record in terms of the songs. I think about it in terms of the friendships, the collaboration, the support, the joy in creating something collectively.”
Cold call, Sugar Pill
Fast times, Slow life
All of you comedians
Cold cocked, Medicine
I don’t want to go back to being what you wanted
Hail Mary, Full moon
Big boss, Reckoning
Outdoor, Jelly bean
Backpack and cinnamon
I don’t want to go back to being what you wanted
Terrible ways that we land
Oh my God has punishing hands
Terrible games that we play
Oh my God has punishing hands
The latest iteration of Porlolo shines with an inner and outer light, and their resulting music is a beacon of understanding and a source of strength.
“I have no expectations from listeners!” Roberts shares. “I hope they take away whatever they might be needing. My own takeaway is that nothing really matters but the relationships we build. The more I honor the important relationships in my own life, the better and more resonant the art is that I produce.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Porlolo’s No Praise, No Blame EP with Atwood Magazine as Erin Roberts goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s new release!
Stream: ‘No Praise, No Blame’ – Porlolo
:: Inside No Praise, No Blame ::
Ain’t No Use
Ain’t no use reflects on intimacy, and how hard it is to move on from something after you’ve become invested. It’s also about how hard it can be to change in cadence alongside those we love and the tension of malalignment.
This song showed up as a shuffle, but was wrestled into submission (a different beat) by drummer Joe Richmond. The addition of a weird instrument called a Unisynth in the choruses gave the song a definitive vibe that we carried through the rest of the song.
Don’t Turn Me On
Well, this song is pretty straightforward. I threw myself into a friendship that rode the line a little too closely, and it was painful but also just fine. Intimacy is beautiful and complicated, and all those feelings around unrequited or ill-timed love might be an essential part of the human condition.
I wanted this song to feel super fun and light, with lots of oohs and aaahs. James Barone (our producer and engineer) had a good idea on tones right out of the gate and this song came together pretty easily.
Medic was written in response to the loss of too many friends and musical heroes to addiction and suicide. It acknowledges that life can be so incredibly stupid and noisy, but also expresses the deep desire to intervene and help in any way.
I think we all have a profound responsibility to the communities in which we circulate, to check in and call out and prop up. Medic reminds us of that.
God’s Punishing Hands
I went to a songwriting course one time led by some real Nashville pros who had all the accolades and songwriting credits one could hope for. They taught us that dark songs are better with resolution, that listeners yearn for a light at the end of the tunnel. This song ignores all that advice, takes you down low and keeps you there.
I wrote the chorus to this song not long after I’d lost two different friends to brain cancer, and watched these beautiful, young, vibrant and just perfect humans and their families go through the worst imaginable hell. I’m still shocked by how life works.
The rest of the song took shape as I wrote down words from memories that changed me in some way, the times I realised the world wasn’t as it seemed, times I felt robbed of innocence,
disappointed, or fooled. Really just all the feelings that were adjacent to the grief I was holding onto, like if I could name it all it would go away.
This song is my favorite on the EP and I love how the production took shape. We kept and used the scratch track for acoustic guitar and vocals because they were just moody enough, and added in Jake and Anna’s parts after. I had this vision for some really airy clarinets and Andreas Wild of the Night Sweats came in with multiple clarinets and worked out the most beautiful accompaniment.
The song takes you down and stays there, but I like that about it. It’s super important to acknowledge that some aspects of being human are incredibly horrible, especially the ability to experience such deep pain and grief. But, the same ol’ heart that grieves also has great capacity for connection and joy, and that’s not lost on me.
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