Empire, indeed. In the three years since its inception, local indie-rock collective Tender Loving Empire has gradually recruited a roster of talent, stockpiled a stash of darling hipster dry goods, and established a strategically centralized headquarters at the buzzing corner of SW 10th Avenue and Stark Street. This month, the Empire expands again, planting its flag in compilation-CD territory, pitting its own Friends and Friends of Friends alongside established indie annuals from the likes of PDX Pop Now! and Failing Records.
Just in time for holiday gifting, and bursting with newly acquired “friends” (a.k.a. label talent) such as trip-hop innovator Boy Eats Drum Machine, Latina dreamweaver Y La Bamba, and folk force-of-nature Typhoon, the album is obviously a vehicle to push forthcoming TLE full-length releases. Conquistador intentions notwithstanding, it’s surprisingly enjoyable for (almost) all of its 42 songs. It holds up to—and possibly outshines—other local comps, with quality material and refreshingly cohesive curation, mostly favoring sparkly, jangly, lush pop songs with—literally—all the requisite bells and whistles.
A slightly jarring pairing early on is Hush Records troubadour Nick Jaina, whose traditional track, “Strawberry Man,”comes before a progressive and universal tune from Typhoon (a promising recent TLE acquisition). Much too tender (and loving) to say it directly, TLE nonetheless transmits a message: our folks can take your folk—but we’re kind enough to give you guys a ride.