Shy girls breathe new life into portland music scene

It’s amazing the sort of things you come across when you run internet searches for “Shy Girls.” I’ll say this, if you try this at work, be sure to play it safe and include Portland in your query.

After a page or so filled with links relating to Portland-based musician Dan Vidmar’s project Shy Girls, who are releasing their first official EP later this month, I stumbled across a link to an article titled “How to Have a Relationship With a Shy Girl: 11 Steps.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if listening to the new Shy Girls EP, Timeshare, was one of those steps. Timeshare is the sort of sultry, soulful record that you throw on when lights are low and expectations are hanging in the air. Like the cute bad boy with a heart of gold, Timeshare has a heartfelt side that belies its slick ‘90s R&B throwback exterior.

“I’m still falling for you / I’m still just waiting by your side,” Vidmar confesses on “Still Not Falling,” a breathtaking track documenting what Vidmar referred to as “an interesting relationship period.” The dilemma between “we can end this now or we can run it to the ground” chronicled within the song is a moving portrait of the third act of a relationship that’s either going to end or continue running along like a car without an engine. It’s the perfect example of the sort of brutal honesty that Vidmar brings to the cool, immaculately produced R&B vibes of Shy Girls.

The release of Timeshare comes a scant six months after the Shy Girls track “Under Attack” gained accolades ranging from Pitchfork Media coverage to the coveted Best New Band award from Willamette Week, which Vidmar admitted was “crazy.”

At the time, Shy Girls had only played a handful of shows and had a few songs on SoundCloud and Spotify. Still, with “Under Attack” they brought something unique and fresh to a Portland scene that’s all too commonly known for cardigan-sweater-clad twee and post-grunge malaise. The more R&B-oriented songs of Shy Girls have given Portland’s scene a breath of fresh air, allowing other bands to explore similar sounds. Vidmar has mentioned local acts such as Magic Fades and DJ Porsche as examples of other Portlanders he felt are breaking the same ground.

Shy Girls have been hitting their stride at the perfect time, when even the most dour and lifeless bands seem to be
embracing dance and R&B textures—witness Arcade Fire’s abysmal track “Reflektor,” which sounds like the boring mid-aughts version of David Bowie’s cocaine period. It’s amazing how fresh a band can sound simply by focusing on the fundamentals of tight songwriting, earnest lyrics and solid production.

Timeshare breezes by in just over 26 minutes. In an era defined by the dichotomy of 80 minute double LPs and iTunes singles, an EP is certainly welcome. The record is well served by this sort of songwriter-oriented approach, allowing listeners a glimpse into what’s to come from one of Portland’s truly essential acts.