Eclectic, complex, noise-filled; Finn Riggins

If there is a cosmic soup containing the likes of Built to Spill, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, Pink Floyd and The Beatles, then Finn Riggins is navigating its choppy waters quite well.

Originally based in Sun Valley, Idaho, the three members of Finn Riggins met while completing their music degrees at the University of Idaho. Eric Gilbert (keys and vocals), Lisa Simpson (guitar and vocals) and Cameron Bouiss (percussion) began playing together in 2006 and quickly found themselves as full-time touring musicians.

They released their first full-length album, “A Soldier, A Saint, An Ocean Explorer” in 2007 on the Portland-based label Tender Loving Empire and played more than 200 shows to support the album.

Their recent show at Alex’s was in support of their 2009 release “Vs. Wilderness,” an eclectic, complex, noise-filled album full of catchy songs and intelligent lyrics.

They showed-off for the Alex’s crowd through their musicianship as well as their on-stage energy. Their live show sounds just as good, if not better, than their recorded material.

Simpson’s vocal talents are impressive as is her guitar playing. She moves from tender Natalie Merchant-sweetness to something evoking a rare on-key performance from Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Her use of surprising chord changes and timely effects bring the songs to vibrant life, and her lyrics give an underlying tone of hope and energy.

Gilbert’s keyboard playing is equally impressive. At times gentle and at times low and grinding, he uses the gamut of his keyboard knowledge to give the music a dense, textured feel. His vocal talents are impressive as well, adding backgrounds on some songs and taking over leads on others.

One of the best things that Finn Riggins has to offer are the vocal talents of Gilbert and Simpson. Their voices are impressive, yes, but the way they lay out melodies and harmonies is astounding.

Often, one of them will sing nonsense syllables to a catchy melody while the other sings lyrics over intricately laid out harmonies and vocal lines. Seeing them perform this feat live is a treat.

Another sight to behold is the drumming of Cameron Bouiss. His hard-driven lines are the backbone of every song, even when he plays the kettle drum.

Bouiss handles the tricky time signatures of the songwriting very well. Often times the songs will change tempo or time signature mid-song and he pulls off these feats with ease, making it seemless and natural.

“Vs. Wilderness” is an 11-song thrillride through slow instrumentals, dirty rockers and hook-laden pop numbers.

If one thing can be said of Finn Riggins in an attempt to summarize this eclectic band, it’s that they are masters of tension-and-release songwriting. These three know how to build up and blow up their audience with sublime results.

Finn Riggins is currently touring the west coast but will soon conlude the tour opening up for fellow Boise residents, Built to Spill.
After the tour they plan to return to the studio to begin a new record.

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