2015 was a big year for fans of music, both locally and beyond. Dormant greats made monumental comebacks with long-awaited new releases, while other beloved groups released their final works in search of new projects, and some new favorites even made their debuts, becoming instant classics.
We recognize that year-end best-of lists are completely subjective, but if you’re a reader of Noise & Color, you’re already subjecting yourselves to our cultural curation. And we sure as shit love lists – hell they’re how we learned to read as kids (Trailer Park Boys reference for those not in the loop…). With so many great bands in the Portland area, it was hard to whittle this list down, but enjoy our 15 favorite local releases of 2015.
And And And – The Failure (Party Damage)
And And And is my favorite Portland band, and The Failure is anything but that. Their jarring, heartfelt power pop/rock is unlike any other, with instrumentation that can match both the delicacy or brutality of Baumgartner’s lurid vocals. Willamette Week crowned them queens of the scene in 2011, but And And And has always had my heart. While it’s not fair to slight any one song on The Failure, some favorites include “Bow Down,” “A Real Case of the Blues,” “Oh My Love is Sweet,” and “One More Trip to Babylon.” – T.L.
Listen if you like: Kal Marks, Pixies, Titus Andronicus
Bear & Moose – Obstacle (self-released)
An underrated and overlooked release from this year, Bear & Moose’s Obstacle quietly became one of my favorite records of the year. An unsure future combined with an unhyped release may have kept this record from getting much recognition, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not listening to it. Obstacle is built on slacky, groovy rhythms, with especially memorable bass lines, complemented by hooky guitar licks, and completed by a vocal performance coated in apathy but grounded in honesty. – A.S.
Listen if you like: Parquet Courts, Jonathan Richman, Television
Cat Hoch – Look What You Found EP (self-released)
Cat Hoch’s first solo release Look What You Found is an astral pop masterpiece, blending the poeticism of 60’s flower power and a modern fascination with soft psychedelia. While there seems to be a flood of dream pop in the canon, there’s a unique vulnerability to her sound. Her airy voice is like a fawn, any sudden movement and it may disappear back into the mystic woods from which it came. For fans of Cate le Bon, Strawberry Alarm Clock and all things unabashedly dreamy. – A.J.
Listen if you like: Melody’s Echo Chamber, Tame Impala, Warpaint
The Domestics – The Domestics (Tender Loving Empire)
The Domestics are so hot right now, The Domestics (That’s a Zoolander reference for those not on board the overplayed cultural bandwagon). With the release of their full-length record, an American cross country tour with Northwestern giants Blitzen Trapper, a Banana Stand Media live album recording, and opening for renowned acts like Destroyer and Tokyo Police Club – I think it may be fair to say The Domestics have been busy. With Leo London’s tenacious and frank songwriting ability and Michael Finn’s angelic voice and engineering aptness, a “Best of 2015” list wouldn’t feel complete without mentioning the pop powerhouse. Waiting to see what The Domestics will do in 2016 is sort of like waiting for their magnum. – A.J.
Listen if you like: Andy Shauf, Blitzen Trapper, Elliott Smith
The Ghost Ease – Raw EP (Cabin Games and K Records)
RAW was released a few months ago, and having spent some time with it now, it’s easy to say this album only gets better with age. Over time, it becomes easier to hear the intricacies of Nsayi Matingou’s drumming and the subtle foundation laid by Lauren Vidal’s bass lines for Jem Marie’s voice to soar on top of. Between sleepy, ethereal songs like “Bye, Love” and heavy, addictively fuzzed out songs like “Pareidoila”, it’s clear that The Ghost Ease have found a way to step outside of a defined genre and create music that fans of grunge, pop, psych, and metal music can all get behind. – S.E.
Listen if you also like: Diet Cig, Hop Along, Palehound, Dum Dum Girls
Grandparents, Sincerely, Bagman (Strange Light)
After three quiet years, Sincerely, Bagman marks the triumphant return of psych-rock darlings, Grandparents. This album is a jangly, danceable, psychedelic gem that digs deep into authentic 60s psych sound and makes it their own, incorporating fresh pop hooks and tasty bass grooves. Check out this album for their pop-centric track “Kids in the Alley,” but stay for songs like “YYOOUU,” “Pill Spectre,” and “Blue River” which are the real heart of the album. – S.E.
Listen if you like: Jacco Gardner, Tame Impala, Wand
Helvetia – Dromomania (Joyful Noise)
Following up on their 2012 burner Nothing In Rambling, Helvetia solidified themselves as one of the smartest indie rock projects in the region with this year’s release, Dromomania. A band whose raw live power and sheer volume must be hard to capture on record, they’ve managed to make it look easy. From gentle tunes like “Crumbs Like Saucers” to the overdriven and synthesized “A Dot Running for the Dust,” Jason Albertini’s lyrics and melodies have no trouble becoming instant classics. – T.L.
Listen if you like: Clarke and the Himselfs, Duster, Pavement
Jackson Boone, Natural Changes (self-released)
In the last two years Jackson Boone has released two incredible back-to-back albums. Natural Changes is Jackson Boone’s sophomore album and it is every bit as passionate and intriguing as Starlit, but it is also more refined. From the ultra-catchy “Runaway” to supremely sexy “Strawberry vibes” all the way to aching beauty of “Natural Changes”, this album is a psychedelic daydream you won’t ever want to be roused from. – S.E.
Listen if you like: Boogarins, Michael Rault, Once and Future Band
Myke Bogan – Casino Carpet (Eyrst)
Myke Bogan is the complete package. Production: check. Lyrics: check. Visuals: check. It’s always all there, and Casino Carpet is no different. Case in point — check out the trippy “Aye Aye” video. All over Casino Carpet there’s production that sounds like it’s influenced by dancey, indie acts (shit like Glass Animals, Chromatics, etc); there’s old school, boom-bap, stoney-baloney shit; there’s stuff with chilled-out, jazz samples; and no matter what, this stuff lives in the 90 bpm neighborhood, making it the perfect soundtrack to chill to. At this pace, it should be just a matter of time until Myke Bogan is an XXL Freshman. – A.S.
Listen if you like: Isaiah Rashad, Danny Brown, BADBADNOTGOOD
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)
The Pacific Northwest born riot grrrl emperoresses made a monumental comeback after nearly a decade of silence with their 2015 release No Cities To Love. Even if the comeback was just for one album and tour, SK made this one count, writing one of the best punk rock albums in some time. Explosive drumming, screaming guitars and earworm pop melodies intertwined, No Cities To Love has it all. For a good time, put on “Surface Envy,” “Burry Our Friends,” “A New Wave,” and “No Cities To Love.” – T.L.
Listen if you like: Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens To Betsy
Sinless – Ethereality EP (self-released)
Albeit short, the Ethereality EP by Sinless carries you off into a dazed dream state, as if to be drifting through colorful clouds of a depressive trance. Birthed from a then reborn Cor Allen, Sinless masks forlorn with wispy vocals and a catchily downtempo analog rhapsody. Seeping longing, loss, mystery and nostalgia, the Ethereality EP reflects a somber desire that we’ve all experienced before and at times maybe didn’t even know how to handle. – C.P.
Listen if you like: Akron Family, Department of Eagles, Mercury Rev
The Tamed West – The Tamed West EP (self-released)
I’m going to go out on a proverbial limb and make a pretty big claim; The Tamed West’s debut self-titled release is one of the best Pacific NW indie rock releases in 2015. What makes this claim risky has nothing to do with the merit of the group, The Tamed West has rightfully garnered a great deal of attention in Portland for their brand of self-titled “garage rock.” The group technically tight, with a sweet balance between fuzz and function. What makes the claim so grand is that indie rock tends tends to be a blanket statement for all things lo-fi and non-abrasive. In technical terms the market is flooded. However, The Tamed West’s first EP is so catchy and classic that it has the ability to completely stand out in a sea of alt-rock. – A.J.
Listen if you like: Diiv, Gauntlet Hair, Wild Hair
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love (Jagjaguwar)
Yes UMO switched things up on us somewhat with Multi Love, but hot damn is this one good. Aside from a subtle increased use of synthesizer and electronics, the intricacies of guitarist/singer Ruban Neilson’s songwriting haven’t changed all that much. Rather it’s his heightened mastery of production and tone that sets UMO’s Multi Love apart from I and II. Absolute must listen tracks include “Multi Love,” “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” “The World is Crowded,” and “Necessary Evil.” – T.L.
Listen if you like: Connan Mockasin, Destroyer, Real Estate
Woolen Men – Temporary Monument (Woodsist)
With their DIY game incredibly strong, Woolen Men have been manifesting a world of success around them, landing them on renowned label Woodsist. Their particular style of punk, a la Minutemen and the Wipers, has made them a quality staple in the Portland music scene. With Temporary Monument, Woolen Men have reached yet another peak in their career, with hooky bass lines to lure you in, and post-punk Gang of Four-ian dance tinges, this is easily one of the greater albums in the Woolen Men catalogue. – C.P.
Listen if you like: Minutemen, Mission Of Burma, The Mantles
Guantanamo Baywatch – Darling… It’s Too Late (Suicide Squeeze)
Is/Is – Return to Zero (self-released)
Ezra Bell – We Came By Canoe (self-released)
Fur Coats – Desperate EP (self-released)
Have some other favorites you wish we’d included? Let us know in the comments!