By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
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In contrast, Portland boasted precisely the vibe the Robinsons wanted, and upon relocating there, they got into a recording groove. Lovers, Lead the Way! came out under the auspices of the Asthmatic Kitty imprint in 2003 but was subsequently reissued by Minty Fresh, a Chicago company that put out 2004's The Heat Can Melt Your Brain as well. Both albums are consistently charming and determinedly lo-fi, due in large part to the circumstances under which they were committed to tape. "Our studio is our house," Anita says. "We record all over the place. In our living room, sometimes in the basement, sometimes in the stairwell to the basement." The kitchen, too: Anita's been known to bounce the sound from one of her amps into her open stove.
Blood, the new CD, is another example of home cooking, but the sound is considerably fuller. Part of that has to do with overdubbing; Anita plays bass on several tracks, and Kevin does likewise on top of contributing on keyboards, harmonica, recorder and bowed saw. Even so, the main reason for the songs' evolution can be traced to Anita's guitar. "I just felt like playing a louder, more aggressive style on a lot of them," she says. "I guess I was feeling more flamboyant."
Among the folks who noticed were the Shins, another gaggle of Portland transplants (the group formed in Albuquerque) with a similar sensibility. Nevertheless, the performers didn't know each other when Shins leader James Mercer phoned Anita to ask if she'd contribute vocals to the just-released platter Wincing the Night Away. She's heard on two Wincing songs, led by "Phantom Limb," the initial single, which she helped warble during the Shins' recent appearance on Late Show With David Letterman. As a bonus, Mercer and pals handpicked Viva Voce as tourmates.
This opportunity means that Anita and Kevin will spend even more close-up-and-personal time than usual. Some married couples couldn't handle that much enforced togetherness, but Anita's actually looking forward to it. "That's not to say we don't fight and scrap when we're recording -- we definitely do," she concedes. "Emotions run high when it comes to art and the music you're making. But there are more high highs than low lows. That's the way our life is together."