Portland, OR resident, Anna Diem, can do almost anything in music. She is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Hello Oregon, her second full-length, was completed by only one person-- herself. Diem’s songwriting alone is impressive, but it’s enhanced by her excellent production skills.
Diem had this to say about her process: “I recorded Hello Oregon into Pro Tools, through my Moto 828 interface and PC. I used an AKG Perception 420 on my vocal and guitars, a Shure 58 on percussion, and my Tascam DR40 (portable recorder) for environmental sounds and field recordings. All mixing was done in the box, and I used Ozone mastering plugins for mastering.” The finished result was released in November 2022.
As crickets chirp in the distance on the LP’s first track, “Lucky,” Anna Diem treats us to some deep piano playing along with her soulful vocals. This one, vocally and musically, reminded me very much of something from Adele’s 21 album. Other than the field recordings and barely audible thumps, the instrumentation is spare. I wouldn’t exactly classify this as a ballad, but the arrangement gives the voice and words the space that they need.
The next two songs are noticeably more upbeat. “Everybody’s Different” commences with the wise words, “We’ve got a lot in common / I’ve got a lot of problems.” I was happy to hear some different instruments like acoustic and electric guitar, bass and percussion, as well as some faint ringing in the bridge. “Everybody’s different,” Diem reminds us, “It’s not that simple.” Moving on, we get “All of My Friends,” a song with an atmosphere that I felt was akin to “I Will Do These Things” by Azure Ray. Like the first cut, this one focuses more on piano than guitar work, but its tempo is much slower as the chorus melody gives way to ambient thunder noises and the twittering of birds.
Both “Everybody’s Different” and “All of My Friends” really raised my expectations for the rest of Hello Oregon. Its next song, the title track, may be the only repetitive moment on the album, but it doesn’t kill its momentum. It’s sequenced right before the banger that is “Deep Sea Diver.” This minor-key song is driven by a haunting wordless hook as well as an addictive electro beat. Without a doubt, this is the record’s highest peak, and it’s not even close! Attached to “Deep Sea Diver” is a brief piano interlude that really feels as if it was meant to be part of the song, even though it’s technically a separate track.
The last original song, “Hang On,” tells the listener to do just that with positive messages like “You can lean on me.” Finally, the record finishes with an indie rock cover of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, which is an interesting choice to end the album. With a different melody, liberal use of reverb and Diem’s passionate vocals, it sounds nothing like the original. She really makes this song her own.
As a whole, I feel like Hello Oregon is perhaps one of the greatest works I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing! Definitively cohesive and concise, it is a treasure among the countless other alt pop albums out there. I cannot recommend this enough, and I am eagerly awaiting her third outing.
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