Prognosticating which records are actually going to come out over the course of a new year—to say nothing of which of them will be the most rewarding—is a fool's errand. Releases get delayed, and thankfully and inevitably we haven't yet even heard of many of the bands that will be our favorites at the end of the year (Blind Pilot or Grouper, anyone?).
Nonetheless, there is something ritually invigorating about taking advance stock of what music Portlanders will be treated to this year. In addition to the breath-bating, upcoming records from the biggies—the Decemberists, M. Ward, the Thermals, Mirah—here are a few local releases I'm particularly looking forward to in 2009:
Explode into Colors
Titles TBD (Labels TBD)
Due: spring 2009
No new Portland band has me as excited as this almost totally treble-less trio of drum-worshipping, post-dub, punk priestesses. This year, Explode into Colors will put out their first recordings, which will take the form of three distinct 7-inches on three separate labels (one of which is Kill Rock Stars). These songs will later be collected, paired with some unreleased tracks, and released as an EP. I fully expect that this is what the witches from Macbeth will be cutting loose to at their 2009 Halloween party.
Lo-Fi Heights (Tres Records)
Since their last album as Lightheaded, 2006's Wrong Way, the three emcees and producers in this Portland hiphop supergroup have confirmed their individual claims to being among the best in the Northwest beats 'n' rhymes game thanks to notable solo outings. Perhaps you've heard of them: Braille, Ohmega Watts, and Othello. A little older, a little wiser, and at the peak of their powers, we can expect that these musical musketeers will do some serious sonic swashbuckling in 2009.
The Mint Chicks
Screens (Label TBD)
Due: March 2009 in New Zealand; TBD in the USA
What does a band from New Zealand do after releasing four albums on storied label Flying Nun, topping the charts, and winning every award imaginable in their native land? Move to Portland, apparently, in an attempt to duck the counter-creative excesses of superstardom, and make a vocoder-heavy pop record that sounds like its target audience are bubble gum-chewing, teenage robot punks with a soft spot for Queen and Brainiac.
Title TBD (Warp Records)
Due: spring 2009
Okay, so I jumped the gun putting this one on my Most Anticipated Local Albums of '08 list. So shoot me. But please don't do it until after Nice Nice—the Thomas Pynchon of Portland music, in terms of recent reclusion and artistic invention—finally release their long-gestating Warp Records debut. Rock journalists will at long last have the opportunity to correctly apply the term "polyrhythmic"; musicians will shake their heads at how this guitar-and-drums duo overwhelms their own eight-piece indie guitarmies; and music lovers will listen and smile.
See Mystery Lights (DFA)
One year ago, Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans—AKA YACHT—packed their toothbrushes, a Taiwanese drum kit, a Fender Mustang, and a computer, and set out for the bizarro deserts of Marfa, Texas, in an effort to dodge the darkness of the Portland winter and craft a narratively cohesive record. YACHT worked in semi-isolation, illuminated by the enigmatic (and titular) Marfa "ghost lights," and under the same strange spell that drew such visionaries as David Byrne and Donald Judd to the city in the past, which can only mean good things.
Also Highly Anticipated: Alan Singley and Pants Machine, Alela Diane, Atole, Au, Braille, the Bugs, the Builders and the Butchers, Cajun Gems, Church, Cool Nutz, Copy, DJ Yo-Yo Dieting, Ethan Rose, E*Rock, the Estranged, Glass Candy, Guidance Counselor, Hey Lover, Hornet Leg, the Hunches, Laura Gibson, Loch Lomond, the Mean Jeans, Norfolk & Western, Nurses, SubArachnoid Space, World's Greatest Ghosts