Bars and venues we used to frequent are now closed for good. All-ages venues are nearly extinct. House show opportunities that seemed to happen every weekend are nowhere to be found anymore. The city is lined with condos everywhere. The overall landscape of a once familiar city is almost too strange to comprehend. Despite all of these differences, 2014 has been significant and amazing for two major reasons: The uprising of the psychedelic rock movement and greater prominence of women in the music scene. Both have had their rise in popularity and that shift in itself is one to take notice of.
Below, we’ve listed the top five remarkable albums released this year from Portland-based artists who reflect the changes we’ve all experienced this year. To make this list easiest for you, and setting it apart from all the other best-of lists, we’ve organized the albums very carefully based on their targeted demographics and what makes them worth listening to, so you can pick out what is most relevant to personal experience and interests.
AAN, Amor Ad Nauseum
For a band that’s put in their time longer than necessary to get appropriate recognition, Aan takes the gold medal. Their proper full length, Amor Ad Nauseum, released via Party Damage Records in February this year, takes on so many vibes. It’s hard to pin down a specific genre, though pop elements pull through more than any other. If “Wake Me With A Kiss” doesn’t lure you in, patience to allow the entire album play from start to finish will. – C.P.
Target demographic: dreamers
Why you should listen: Every time you’re asking yourself why you can’t think of one album to play straight through during a hazy, beautiful moment-you no longer have to repeat your past. This is it.
Jackson Boone, Starlit
Jackson Boone seemed to materialize out of Portland’s thin, wet air, and it’s a good thing they did, because their 2014 debut release, Starlit, is one of the city’s best new works. The album was produced by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s drummer Riley Geare, and word on the street is that they’re teaming up again for a follow-up record which is already in the works. Be on the lookout from more from these heady dudes. – T.L.
Target demographic: Mystics, wanders and those looking to be lost in transcendental healing.
Why you should listen: This album will make you feel better than accomplishing any of your New Years resolutions.
Like A Villain, Bast
Initially, Holland Andrews must intimidate everyone. Bast is that album you really should listen to alone at first. Expect goosebumps. Expect yourself to question what you’re doing in this world and what you can do better. Andrews pairs her notable strong vocals together with experimental instrumentation in a way that words really can’t describe. – C.P.
Target demographic: child prodigies
Why you should listen: Not able to tune into yourself properly? Try this as an accompaniment.
The Domestics, The Domestics
In a year full of recycled garage psych riffs, The Domestics’ self-titled debut effort was a breath of fresh air. As honest as they come, they see nothing wrong with writing “classic” ballads and keeping their tones clean. I can’t stress enough how much their comfort with creating a clean sound resonates with me — they don’t use fuzz or reverb as a crutch like many others do. First and foremost, their goal seems to be to write a good song, and that seems to be a pretty successful formula. – A.S.
Target demographic: passive romantics
Why you should listen: You enjoy tunes from Elliott Smith and Nick Cave or you’re sick of the same old recycled psych rock.
The Shivas, You Know What To Do
There’s always room for carefree garage rock. It barely oversteps boundaries, yet gives you the urge to cross your own. The Shivas dropped You Know What To Do on October 28th through Burger Records at the right time, just when Portland needed something catchy and rowdy. Opening and title track transport you directly in front of an old Western saloon if you close your eyes and let your imagination get the better of you. The entire album as a whole drifts in and out of sounding taunting and playful or carefree and easing. – C.P.
Target demographic: gentle rebels
Why you should listen: You need this album to attract your next soul partner.
Psychomagic, Bad Ideas
Noteworthy psychedelic innovators that pulled through the aforementioned psychedelic movement, Psychomagic, have been running around town and making a name for themselves through their performances and dedication to the community. Their impatiently awaited full length, Bad Ideas, released through Lolipop Records in November grows on you faster than most albums will. It has thoughtful hooks, flowery lyrics and a charming bow to the musicians well known in the 60s and 70s. Ride that wave. – C.P.
Target demographic: bohemians
Why you should listen: You’re interested in psychedelic rock, what’s going on in Portland and what’s going on in LA. You also want to experience an amazing house show.
Sama Dams, Comfort in Doubt
I don’t mean this is a knock on any other acts, but to me, Sama Dams are the smartest band in town. Their rhythms are heady, their songwriting is cryptic, and their structures can be fairly anomalous and atypical. Comfort in Doubt is the latest from Sama Dams, and it’s perhaps their most intrepid attempt at self-expression thus far. And fortunately, they’re not just a studio act — their live show has the gusto to match. – A.S.
Target demographic: low-key intellectuals
Why you should listen: You want to think about what you’re listening to without having progressions spoon-fed to you.
Talkative, Hot Fruit Barbeque
With perhaps the most evolving and dynamic sense of experimental psych rock in the entire Portland scene, Hot Fruit Barbgeque, has roots in hard hitting rock and roll, with a splash of world music influence, a dose of electronic sampling, and is layered beautifully with lazy lo-fi vocals. Recent performances suggest that their next collection of songs will take a turn towards a heavier use of synth and electronics, but they still offer one of the most energetic live shows the city has to offer. – T.L.
Target demographic: You didn’t get along with your father growing up, perhaps he thought it a bit “queer” that you chose to pursue music. Or, you just like heavy psych rock.
Why you should listen: Your dad can’t hurt you anymore. Be yourself. Pop this album on and turn up the volume.
Another impressive record produced by UMO’s Jacob Portrait, reinforcing his status as a brilliant engineer. Get past the first two tracks which seem like they might been more at home on Wampire’s 2013 debut album Curiosities, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. For a group that came of age in a world of house shows and stripping off clothes on stage, core members Eric Phipps and Rocky Tinder show surprisingly vast growth in their songwriting on Bazaar. Stand out tracks include “Fly On the Wall,” “Wizard Staff,” and “Life of Luxury.” – T.L.
Target demographic: Freaks, party boys, and pot smoking gamers
Why you should listen: This is way better than the current soundtrack to your stoned video game experience.
The layer of mystery that exists with Grouper aka Liz Harris is constantly building. Ruins, released on Halloween through Kranky Records was well-received by many critics if that means anything to you. What I want to tell you here and now is that Harris transcends the typical ambient genre. Her floating vocals trap listeners in place, yet all other aspects of her music are freeing. Ruins could substitute for a tranquilizer and psychedelic drugs if you’re ready for the experience. – C.P.
Target demographic: serious observers
Why you should listen: This album is like looking through a stranger’s diary. We’re all curious, go on.