Forget whatever it is you thought Portland sounded like. The city's musicians sure have.
For our annual Best New Bands poll, we survey over one hundred music experts, insiders and enthusiasts to determine the 10 best, most of-the-moment local acts. And over the past few years, the results have shown that the artists in this town are increasingly unwilling to submit to anyone's expectations—including their own.
The number of dudes with guitars slung across denim jackets has dwindled, and the days of nostalgic psych rock and rehashed grunge tropes are on the wane. In their place are rappers who are channeling their deepest traumas into anthems of self-love, harpists refusing to have their music dismissed as "pretty," and at least one band that describes itself by referencing both spaghetti Western soundtracks and Spongebob Squarepants.
Watch live performances from the top three Best New Bands finalists as part of the WW Morgue Session below:
The Portland music scene has never been harder to pin down. But that's not to say there's no such thing as a "Portland sound"—only, it's defined less by genre than by attitude.
It's audacious. It's vibey. And, of course, it's a bit weird.
It takes the form of synth-pop wizards creating music on the fringes of categorization, MCs delivering hard-hitting verses over dreamy beats, and a hip-hop shape-shifter who came out of a life-or-death year to meet Dr. Dre. Even the bands still made up of dudes with guitars—including the top vote-getter, a supergroup of Portland music lifers—aren't doing what anyone would expect them to.
Many of the musicians who made this year's list are not technically "new." Many of them aren't "bands," either. But that's only further proof that the artists in the following pages are moving conversations around music beyond predetermined paths.
They each have a lot to say. We hope you'll listen.