In the decade we’ve been polling Portland’s most knowledgeable music fans and professionals to compile our annual Best New Band list, we’ve learned one thing: Bands here don’t just break up and disappear. They evolve and regenerate. They add a guitarist, lose a cellist, and emerge with a new Bandcamp page.
Of the 10 acts you’re going to read about on this year’s list, half have connections to bands who’ve made the list before. You may not know the septuagenarian soul singer in our top spot, but the drummer who revived his career played in two previous finalists. Band No. 3 is practically a Best New Band supergroup. Our fifth-place artist is a member of Au, a finalist from way back in 2008. The duo in sixth place spun off from last year’s winner, Shy Girls. One of the rappers in the 10th-place group made the list as a solo artist two years ago.
Now you understand why we encourage voters—a coalition of more than 200 journalists, musicians, promoters, label owners, radio hosts and local music fanatics—not to get hung up on the definition of “new.”
Despite appearances, this issue isn’t a coronation. It’s an attempt to capture a fleeting moment, before the cycle of regeneration starts over again. It’s an imperfect process, we admit. There should be more hip-hop and electronic music on this list. More jazz. More everything. But Best New Band is never meant to be the last word. Rather, it’s a starting point. It’s a way to quiet the noise while selectively raising the volume, to slow things down and take in the landscape. Because in Portland, music moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and listen once in a while, you might miss something awesome.
—Matthew Singer, Willamette Week Music Editor
SEE IT: Willamette Week’s Best New Band Showcase 2014 featuring Ural Thomas & the Pain, Summer Cannibals and Tiburones, Saturday, May 17, at Mississippi Studios (3939 N Mississippi Ave.) Free. 8 Pm Doors, 9 Pm Show. 21+.