Fifteen For '15

Ranking the most-anticipated local albums of the coming year.

If there were a Geiger counter to subjectively measure the year in music, the results would say that 2014 was not a particularly great one. Outside of D’Angelo finally emerging from the wilderness and the usual stray gems, there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about. But music is a cyclical culture. If one year is underwhelming, the next is sure to be so stacked it’ll be a challenge just to keep up. That’s true on a global level, with expected releases from Kanye West, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar and others, and it’s especially true in Portland, where 2015 is shaping up to be one of the biggest local music years in a long time. Here are 15 albums we can’t wait to hear, ranked by level of anticipation. 

1. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love

(Release date: Jan. 20)

Recorded in secret, in three cities, the first album in 10 years from American punk's most riotous girls makes a good case for all bands taking decadelong vacations. "Anticipated" is a weak word in this case. Is there an adjective that means "on the brink of hemorrhaging from excitement"?

2. Vinnie Dewayne, St. Johns Scholar

(Release date TBA)

St. Johns' answer to Kendrick Lamar has been teasing his second album for nearly two years, rolling out new tracks on SoundCloud and dropping a stopgap EP, Rites of Passage: Before the Scholar, right before Christmas. But Dewayne promises the completed full-length will arrive this spring, and when it does, it should cement the 23-year-old MC as Portland's best storyteller, in rap or otherwise.

3. Natasha Kmeto, Inevitable

(Release date TBA)

The future-R&B singer-producer says her debut for Dave Sitek's Federal Prism label is a more "vocal-forward" album than 2013's blissed-out Crisis, which is evident from the sultry lead single. "Inevitable" is right: This is the year Kmeto goes from Portland's best-kept secret to national star. Book it.

4. Modest Mouse, Strangers to Ourselves

(Release date: March 3)

In a non-Sleater-Kinney reunion year, Isaac Brock finally emerging with the follow-up to 2007's We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank would be the biggest Portland music story heading into 2015. It's still a big deal, though. And judging by first single, "Lampshades on Fire," the good news is that, after eight years away, Modest Mouse still sounds pretty Modest Mouse-y.

5. Shy Girls

(Release date TBA)

After topping our Best New Band poll in 2013, Dan Vidmar set his blue-eyed bedroom R&B project to simmer, putting out only an EP to go with the three songs he'd previously released. It was a smart move. Vidmar spent 2014 building allegiances—touring with Haim, getting online shout-outs from Brandy and Maxwell, collaborating with electronic producers Odesza and Jagwar Ma—ensuring plenty of ears outside Portland will be listening when the group's debut full-length drops in early 2015. 

6. The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

(Release date: Jan. 20)

Indie rock's biggest brainiacs hit No. 1 with 2011's The King Is Dead, which was either indicative of the band's reach or just one of those Billboard anomalies that happens in an age when no one buys albums anymore. Either way, Colin Meloy and crew have a lot to live up to. Based on the sweet jangle of lead single "Make You Better"—and the accompanying video starring Nick Offerman in a turtleneck—that shouldn't be a problem.

7. Ural Thomas and the Pain

(Release date TBA)

Portland's rediscovery of deep-soul legend Thomas is one of the great local music stories of the past two years, but the musicians responsible for reviving his career know that unless his voice is preserved in the studio, he could easily backslide into obscurity. According to drummer and bandleader Scott Magee, the Pain is gathering a set of songs—covers, tunes from Thomas' 1960s heyday, and a few originals—for recording, with California singer-songwriter Nick Waterhouse co-producing, alongside Magee, and a release date targeted for the end of summer.

8. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars

(Release date: Jan. 27)

With 2013's Summon the Faithless, Lord Dying rode a river of sludge to the top of the Portland doom metal heap. What to expect of their new album? Well, song titles include "(All Hopes of a New Day)…Extinguished" and "Suckling at the Teat of a She-Beast," so take your best guess.

9. Wild Ones

(Release date TBA)

Keep It Safe made Wild Ones Portland's synth-pop sweethearts two years ago, and while not a whole lot of details are available about the new release—other than it is currently being recorded at the historic Oregon Portland Cement Building—bet on it being guided by singer Danielle Sullivan's irresistible twang.

10. Chromatics, Dear Tommy

(Release date TBA)

Producer Johnny Jewel has been emptying his hard drive of unreleased material as of late, presumably to make room for Chromatics' latest batch of ice-cold disco jams.

11. Rasheed Jamal, Sankofa

(Release date: March)

One-third of hip-hop crew the Resistance, Jamal claims his upcoming release "doesn't sound like anything I or anyone on this coast has done before." He compares it simultaneously to Fight Club, The Last Dragon and Coming to America. "I put myself in my 17-year-old mindset and went home on this mixtape," he says. That's a sterling self-endorsement if I've ever heard one.

12. Lost Lander, Medallion

(Release date: Feb. 24)

For most of his time as a songwriter, Matt Sheehy has worked alone or in pairs. But in his attempt to translate his first release under the Lost Lander imprimatur, 2012's lushly detailed DRRT, live, the project evolved into a full-fledged, four-piece band. That's the biggest difference with Medallion, which, like its predecessor, is produced by ex-Menomena member Brent Knopf, and bears an even fuller, more anthemic sound than DRRT.

13. Radiation City

(Release date TBA)

The soulful Space Age indie-pop quintet mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign for its third album, which the group is finishing at John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone Recording studio in San Francisco, though it's "taking longer than expected," according to guitarist Cameron Spies. It hopes to have the record out by the end of the year.

14. Summer Cannibals, Show Us Your Mind

(Release date: March 3) 

The roaring quartet doubled down on the grungy guitars and Jessica Boudreaux's snarl for its second full-length, which it busted out in a single week at Jackpot Studios. 

15. Sun Angle

(Release date TBA)

It's been a rough road for the prog-punk trio since releasing the awesomely frenetic Diamond Junk in 2013, with singer-guitarist Charlie Salas-Humara getting sidelined by an ear virus, and drummer Papi Fimbres about to take a yearlong German sabbatical. The band's days appear numbered, but it isn't going quietly. Says Fimbres: "We are in the process of writing an album which entails us pretty much blabbering about nothing until we start to jam, and then poof—we have an entire album worth of material.”