Close your eyes and think of a typical Portland band. You’re imagining a group of sensitive lumberjacks playing sad-sack folk tunes on old-timey instruments, aren’t you?
Ask those truly in the know—club owners, label heads, journalists, musicians, promoters, publicists, and plain old record junkies—to do the same, and they’ll tell you it’s an impossible exercise. That’s because there is no such thing as a “typical Portland band.”
Our annual Best New Band poll proves it every year. Since 2004, we’ve surveyed hundreds of local music aficionados, asking for their favorite breakout artists of the previous 12 months. Each year, the results confirm that our city’s internationally celebrated music scene cannot be narrowed into a single sound or style.
Just look at the issue in front of you. This year’s top 10, culled from more than 150 voters, features backward-gazing blue-eyed soulsters on one end and wickedly sarcastic metalheads on the other. In between, there are garage-rock bands that write ace pop songs and pop bands rocking enough to shake the siding off the average garage. There are psychedelic bands with radically different interpretations of the term “psychedelic.” There’s a band driven by crystal keyboards and silky grooves, another by funk-punk rhythms and ecstatic spirituality. There’s even a futuristic electro-R&B diva. And there’s nary a banjo or washboard among them.
As usual, we remind
you that everything about Best New Band—including the definitions of the
words “best,” “new” and “band”—is subjective. We’ll also save you the
keystrokes this year and admit that, yes, we’re a bunch of hipsters
foisting our hipster tastes upon you. If you don’t agree with this list,
well, that’s good. Hopefully, it’ll inspire you to get out to some
shows and come up with your own. Then the next time someone asks you
what a “typical” Portland band sounds like, you’ll know it’s a trick
—Matthew Singer, Willamette Week Music Editor