BY THE END OF 2014, the future of all-ages music in Portland didn't look particularly bright. The closures of punk strongholds like Slabtown and Laughing Horse Books seemed to spell the end of a certain Portland music scene that tastemakers had grown to habitually write off anyway. Turns out all the boilerplate eulogizing was pointless and premature: 2015 was one of the best years for all-ages music in Portland in the post-Satyricon/post-Artistery era, birthing great bands and eager venues—Anarres Infoshop, Black Water Bar, Mother Foucault's Bookshop—from the ashes of our city's depleted cultural essence. I've raved about some of those bands a lot in this column, particularly Blowout, Rod, and Alien Boy. Here are some names I might have missed, in addition to some up-and-comers who are sure to make waves in 2016.
Pay no mind to the fact that they take their name from an unremarkable city in one of the country's most unremarkable states. Sioux Falls could very well be the band that propels the Portland DIY scene into the national spotlight, and for good reason. "Soaked in Sleep," the band's second single off their upcoming record, Rot Forever, encapsulates everything eternal and vibrant about melodic, punk-specked pop without the Tumblr histrionics and present-day Warped Tour varnish. Frontman Isaac Eiger might have his thumb on the pulse, but it helps that he's also a terrific songwriter.
Chugger is a collaboration between venerable punk Edward Beaudin and singer/songwriter Jordan LeVeque. First things first: The group has a topical Nirvana pastiche titled "Yuppie Scum," which is equal parts poignant and horrifying. Elsewhere in their live set, LeVeque's croon intimates a deep love for classic pop music, and some of Beaudin's songs are his catchiest and most gut- wrenching since his days in self-coined twee-mo outfit the Bustling Townships (RIP). The group is currently working on a record.
Before adopting the persona "Danny Denim" and leading the batshit beat troupe God Fears Aliens, Portland musician Severin Moore was one of the underground's brightest stars, fronting Trifina Trifosa—a precocious, hastily written love letter to Mike Kinsella & Co. whose sole recorded output resides securely in the permanent mid-'00s time capsule known as MySpace. Pet World, Moore's latest project with Maya Stoner (formerly of the band Forest Park and currently of Sabonis—whose tape I released in the summer, full disclosure), is arguably his most accessible yet, an indelible venture into chilly, electro-manipulated pop music distinguished by Stoner's irascible delivery and Moore's talent as a producer.
I get the impression that Drunken Palms are being earnest when they list "Blink-182," "Nirvana," and "New Order" as Bandcamp tags. There are moments on Demos and Live Recordings—the group's only existing collection of material—that evoke all three of those bands, whether it's Katelyn Mundal's weary post-punk inflection, or the grungy, unremitting discordance of opener "Blush," or the vaguely pop-punkish attitudinizing of "Greyscale." Drunken Palms have synthesized these disparate influences into something totally singular. The hauntingly minimalist intro to "Loop 5 (Now We Can Speak Louder)" is one of the prettiest pieces of music I've heard produced by a local band within the last year, and "Seagulls" sounds like Dear Nora on a shit-load of drugs. Like, the heavy, weird kind.