Portland Handbook 2018
There’s an unbelievable number of people in this city making music, and even more going out every week to watch them perform it. All kinds of music! From maudlin country to disco-inflected R&B to psychedelic cumbia to straightforward indie rock ’n’ roll, there is truly something for everyone on Portland’s stages. But if you’re overwhelmed by the abundance of options, here’s a primer of the bands and musicians who should be at the top of your ears’ priority list.
Black Belt Eagle Scout
Initially released last year on Portland’s own Good Cheer Records, Mother of My Children—the debut LP from Katherine Paul, AKA Black Belt Eagle Scout—got plenty of shine beyond city limits, which is why it’s getting reissued this month by Saddle Creek Records. With surging guitar solos, heavy Pacific Northwest grunge influences, and vulnerable lyrics that explore Paul’s identity as a “radical indigenous queer feminist,” Mother of My Children is a powerful introduction to one of the strongest songwriters in the region.
Blossom dropped her long-awaited debut LP Tease last year (a collaboration with producer Hot16), delivering eight tracks of aqueous, periodically funky beats alongside the neo-soul singer’s equally aqueous voice, which gracefully weaves through snapped rhythms and pulsing synth tones. Clout Atlas:: Dormiveglia, her new EP with Ripley Snell, moves in a completely different direction, with weightless melodies and spoken-word monologues exploring much dreamier realms. Blossom’s shows are beyond uplifting—you won’t want to miss any chance to hear “Superwoman” live.
Chanti Darling has been burning down Portland stages for a couple of years now, with shows featuring backup dancers and choreographed dance moves, but the retro-futurist R&B outfit (fronted by Chanticleer Trü) just released their debut LPRNB Vol. 1 last month on Tender Loving Empire. As evidenced by tracks like “St*rs” and “Casual,” Trü draws from jazz, house music, disco, and funk to create irresistible rhythms that will inspire even the most stoic concertgoer to surrender to the groove.
Since releasing her debut LP I Need to Start a Garden earlier this year, folk singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx has played her first NPR Tiny Desk concert, toured endlessly, and performed at festivals around the globe (including Pickathon). With a voice that recalls a cheekier Joan Baez, observational and self-reflective lyrics, tenderly conjured guitar riffs, and an exceptional backing band, Heynderickx is poised to become one of Portland’s most (deservedly) appreciated musicians.
Portland singer, rapper, and former Chanti Darling dancer Maarquii dropped their debut LP Heavy Petty in 2016, followed by the collaborative EP Lullaby in Gemini with producer JVNITOR the following year. Incredible music videos for tracks like “Wirecutters” and the brand-new single “Roll Up” show Maarquii’s unparalleled booty-house beats and knockout moves, which I can confirm are even better when experienced IRL.
Mope Grooves’ latest record Vanished boils over with nervous energy, expanding beyond any container that could possibly hold it. Self-released in March, the album finds the Raincoats-esque post-punk band experimenting with freer pop song structures and tackling darker subject matter head-on. Highlights include the jangly “Secret Life” and a cover of the Marine Girls’ “In Love.”
The Last Artful, Dodgr
With her instantly recognizable rasp and a title nodding to the Soviet-era practice of pressing banned records on X-ray film, the Last Artful, Dodgr’s debut LP Bone Music with producer Neill Von Tally—released last year on taste-making hip-hop label ERYST—hit the Portland hip-hop scene like a rogue meteor. Dodgr’s new single “Win Is Enough” proves we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
The Lavender Flu
Fans of psychedelic rock ’n’ roll hooks should listen to the Lavender Flu’s 2016 debut Heavy Air, followed by the band’s excellent new record Mow the Glass. Both albums contain some of the tightest, catchiest melodies currently coming out of Portland.
Since releasing their 2016 debut Borrowed Floors, local art-punk band Lithics have signed to legendary Portland label Kill Rock Stars and released their sophomore album Mating Surfaces. It amps up the frenetic but calculated energy with driving minimalist rhythms that recall Drinks, the collaborative project of Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley.
Sávila finally dropped their self-titled debut last month, and it’s one of the most entrancing releases to come out of Portland in a long time. Between the twangy, psychedelic riffs of guitarist Fabiola Reyna (founder of She Shreds magazine), the eerily beautiful vocals of Brisa Gonzalez (formerly of Swan Island), and the versatile rhythms of percussionist Papi Fimbres (who’s in a ridiculous number of local bands, including Sun Angle, Boink, and Máscaras), Sávila’s take on cumbia is satisfyingly danceable.