7. Sunbathe (43 pts.)
SOUNDS LIKE: Jenny Lewis moved to Portland because she was sick of the sunshine and wrote an album about how the Northwest bummed her out.
NOTABLE VOTES: The Ghost Ease's Jem Murciano, PDX Pop Now co-founder Ross Beach.
When "California" is used as an adjective, it's meant to imply a feeling of carefree breeziness. That is certainly an accurate way to describe the music of Sunbathe on its surface. But you won't need to dig very deep to discover the bummed-out disposition that lies beneath.
"I don't write a lot when everything is great," says singer-guitarist Maggie May Morris. "It's mostly about shitty love-life stuff and loneliness in general."
Though she's technically from California, the Sacramento suburb of Roseville is far from what one imagines when listening to the laid-back pop long associated with the Golden State. She describes the town as "pretty depressing and boring" and full of "super-rich Mormon kids."
"But that made me sit in my room and play music," Morris says, "so it turned out fine."
Morris formed her first band, Tart Noir, after high school, with friend Pieter Hilton. Eventually, Hilton joined indie-pop orchestra Typhoon and moved to Portland, while Morris went off to finish college in San Francisco. She soon found herself at another lonely impasse.
"After I finished college, my rent was going up, my cat died while I was on tour, and my band was breaking up," Morris says. "Almost right there on the spot, Peter called me and said he had a room opening up in Portland and a job for me at his coffee cart. So it worked out well."
In Portland, Morris quickly found success with the dream-pop group Genders. But with Sunbathe, Morris has parlayed the healing from her emotionally turbulent past into bright, bouncy country pop. On the band's self-titled debut, released last year, it's easy to envision her melancholy twang emanating from a dusty old jukebox while you're alone with your regrets at last call—but it's hard to stay sad for too long when Morris' lilting croon turns into a hopeful howl so quickly.
"A lot of the time leading up to this record I feel like I haven't really been connecting with people," says Morris. "The subject matter is just general existential stuff. But I can't help the melodies in my head being this poppy."
NEXT SHOW: April 4 at Holocene.
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