We're about to start an argument.
In 2004—back when folks did their trolling in person—we launched our annual Best New Band issue, and even then, we knew people were going to fight about the results.
Maybe it's the word "best," or our loose definition of "new," or even the idea of what constitutes a "band." Maybe it's all three. But in Portland, arguing about music is a civic tradition that predates social media and comments sections. We just care about it so deeply—especially the local stuff.
Twelve years later, the wrangling continues, now in digital form. And with this issue, it will start again.
But before firing off your annual tirade about how we got it all wrong, you should know what you're getting worked up about.
First, "we" had little to do with it. This isn't an arbitrary list of artists Willamette Week decided to anoint. Instead, it's the result of polling more than 200 music insiders—the people going to shows every night, obsessively reading zines and blogs and scanning Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages. There's not any shadowy cabal oppressing your buddy's shitty metalcore band: You can read every ballot at wweek.com, and we've provided the names of notable voters in the following pages.
Fact is, what our Best New Band issue does is take a snapshot of the music scene at this moment. And what it's captured recently is a community in transition. We built this city on rock 'n' roll, but it's now being retrofitted for hip-hop, soul and electronic music. Our top vote-getter this year is the brainchild of a military brat who grew up all over the world, absorbed his mom's Prince and Evelyn "Champagne" King records, and emerged here as a self-styled R&B savant. Guitar-driven bands still exist, of course, but while some crank up the volume, others are more apt to use their instruments to paint heavenly, psychedelic dreamscapes. And after years of wondering where all the rappers are, they're now finishing in the poll's top three, and producing some of the most powerful, vibrant and future-forward sounds in the city. It's a testament to how New Portland isn't only changing, but evolving and diversifying.
Of course, you're still welcome to be mad that your favorite emo-jazz troupe or health-goth revival ensemble didn't make the cut. It's why we do this—to get people talking about the music being made right here in town. Just make sure that when you're done calling us stupid hipsters, you don't forget to leave a link, so we can hear what we're missing.
See you in the comments.
— Matthew Singer, WW music editor
WW's Best New Band Showcase, with Chanti Darling, Cat Hoch and Mic Capes, is Friday, March 11 at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave. 9 pm. Free. 21+.