• Sallie Ford, standing, and her band

Portland’s Sallie Ford hasn’t given up her insouciance and sass on her latest album, Slap Back (Vanguard). Based on the song “Workin’ the Job,” her appreciation for carnal pleasures remains unchanged: “Why can’t you skip work today / Some days we are broke, we’re paid / I don’t care how much you make / You don’t need money to get laid.” On her previous two albums that brashness has been delivered with an appealingly loose, liquid phrasing that seemed to borrow more from Blossom Dearie (or Erin McKeown) than Kathleen Hanna, creating a nice tension with her band’s scrappy garage rock and rockabilly grooves.

On her first two albums Ford was backed by a combo called the Sound Outside; on the new one no backing band is credited, but she has an all-new band, one that brings a louder, more muscular attack to her songs. The music sort of grinds now, whereas it used to swing quite a bit. And rather than juxtapose her unique voice against the noise, she’s chosen to toughen up her own delivery as well. The record was produced by Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk, and his efforts further flatten Ford’s music into something that sounds much more ordinary and compressed. There are some songs that retain traces of Ford’s earlier work—when she doesn’t push her voice into something more superficially hard, she reveals flashes of her buoyant past, when a cavalier demeanor and nonchalant bravado sounded much fiercer than her current mold. Below you can hear the single “Coulda Been,” one of the harder-rocking entries on the new album.

Ford headlines the Empty Bottle on Thursday night.

Today’s playlist:

Stan Kenton, Kenton Showcase (Capitol)
JD Allen, Grace (Savant)
Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion, A Mirror to Machaut (Songlines)
Ralph Alessi, Baida (ECM)
Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense, Moment & the Message (Pi)