Did you seriously expect us to pick just five of our favorite local albums from 2008? We could fill the whole paper!
Grouper, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (Type Records)
Grouper (a.k.a. Liz Harris) released my favorite Portland—or anywhere—record this year with the unstoppably crushing Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. Call it dream pop, slowcore, outsider art—but do better than that and listen to it, because as Blue Sounds go, this one is a motherfucker. Music that sounds like it was made underwater should be common in a town where all it does is rain, but Grouper’s drenched ambience is more like an angel writhing in heavy syrup. ERIK BADER.
Horse Feathers, House of No Home (Kill Rock Stars)
It has only taken Justin Ringle and company two albums to achieve a level of musical and lyrical maturity that most indie bands strive for years after they’ve hit the big time. Each song plumbs the depths of failed relationships, distant fathers and other heartbreaks that define our personalities—all wrapped in a mesmerizing and aching combination of acoustic guitar, banjo and violin. ROBERT HAM.
White Fang, Pure Evil (Marriage Records)
Pure Evil isn’t built on musicianship or vocal prowess but on youthful exuberance and charming candor. It’s true the full extent of the rag-tag, underage Portland band’s uniqueness in the live arena—as equally dependent on its rabid audience—doesn’t fully translate to disc. But happily, the album adds mariachi-style horns to White Fang’s own brand of punk, granting the band some additional distinction. It’s less an album than an experience. NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL.
Point Juncture, WA, Heart to Elk (Self-released)
The best things in life require patience and tenacity, and Point Juncture, WA’s tendency to work and rework songs to perfection paid off generously on the group’s opus, Heart to Elk. Stretches of this thick, harmony-driven shoegaze album are absolutely breathtaking, and every song fits into PJWA’s intricate, layered puzzle. CASEY JARMAN.