Portland is starting to make noise again.
Granted, from our point of view, it probably seems like we never stopped. Music has always been one of the city's chief exports, and WW's annual Best New Band poll proves the sheer number of musicians worth hearing in this town has hardly fallen off. Every year, we ask 200 of the most dedicated scene-watchers to name their favorite emerging acts, and every year, we get a fresh crop of over 400 bands, rappers, singers and producers to sift through.
But if we're being truthful, it's been a while since the outside world paid much mind. Portland got famous as a rock-'n'-roll town, but as the cultural currency of bearded dudes with guitars declined, the music press turned its attention elsewhere. The bands kept playing, but beyond the city's borders, it was hard to tell if anyone was listening.
That's beginning to change. In the past year, more and more Portland artists are popping up on the national radar. Aminé went gold rapping about Du's Grill, while the Last Artful Dodgr is hanging out in recording studios with Mark Ronson and Christina Aguilera. The suddenly omnipresent Portugal the Man made one of 2017's most inescapable hits, won a Grammy, and used their moment on the podium to shout out the Trail Blazers—and Satan.
Slowly, the ears of the music world at large are turning back to Portland. And what they're going to find is a place that sounds, and looks, much different than before.
Specifically, they're going to find the artists you'll read about in the following pages.
Our music scene was never as homogenous as the stereotype suggested. But it's also never been so diverse, stylistically and demographically, as it is right now. In this year's top three, you'll find a Mexican-American trio exploring their identity through the rhythms of cumbia, a Native American woman drawing on grunge and dream pop to exorcise the pain of her ancestors and a Puerto Rican pop singer fighting homophobia with songs that may soon be rattling your radio. There's a rapper flipping hip-hop's gender norms on their head, an Afrocentric soul magician, and a spacy R&B duo whose music should be sold at health and wellness stores. And yes, there are still rock bands, reinvigorating the genre with brash, snotty energy.
And that's just what made the list. As we often say, this issue is not meant as the final word but rather a jumping-off point into the music being made right in your backyard. There's never been a better time to dive in.
Best New Band Intro | No. 1: Sávila | No 2: Black Belt Eagle Scout | No. 3: Frankie Simone | No. 4: Amenta Abioto | No. 5: Maarquii | No. 6: Brown Calculus | No 7: Sunbathe | No 8: Blackwater Holylight | No. 9: Autonomics | No. 10 (tie): Public Eye and Wynne | Who's Got Next? No. 11-20 | The Complete Ballots