No blog, it seems, is complete without a litany of year-end lists on its pages detailing the greatest achievements in music, movies, and pop culture over the past twelve months. Despite the fact that linear time is a drag, and categorizing music into tidy lists is anathema to the sprawling, inclusive energy of the Portland music scene, we’ve kowtowed to the year-end pressure (and our own innate love of list-making) and compiled a by-no-means-exhaustive compendium of great releases from Portland bands this year.
Of course, these are personal favorites, and it wouldn’t be a year-end list if it didn’t incite passionate arguments, so—by all means—tear it to shreds. What did we commit the sin of omitting?
Purple and Green—Right Here 12″ EP
The first release on Clinton Street Records and Stereo, a record store-cum-vinyl label run by longtime Portland party monster DJ Maxx Bass, Puple and Green’s Right here was the unofficial body-mover of 2011.
Grouper—A I A: Alien Observer / A I A: Dream Loss
Gorgeous, drony, epic, ambient, ethereal, gauzy…Grouper’s music deserves all the vague adjectives tossed her way by music bloggers nationwide. And more!
Parenthetical Girls—Privilege, Pt. IV: Sympathy for Spastics EP
Part four in an epic series of EPs by Portland’s most tasteful baroque angst showmen (and woman), Sympathy for Spastics is as elegant as it is relentlessly precise. Parts I-III are also commendable.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra—Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The oeuvre of a New Zealand-to-Portland transplant that describes his own sound as “alien beatnik pop music that echoe[s] 60s psychedelia and krautrock minimalism.” What’s not to love?
Key Losers—California Lite
Ok, it’s got California in the name, but it’s PDX through and through. There is perhaps nothing more “Portland” than commentary about the sublimity but ultimate inadequacy of other states, particularly California. This album is a haunting meditation on our southern neighbor from the vantage point of the melancholic Northwestern woods.
Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside—Dirty Radio
It’s always cool when someone emerges out of a fairly cohesive scene with a completely different sensibility than everyone else, brandishing references that others have either moved past from or not gotten to yet, and still inventing something new.
White Fang—Grateful to Shred
White Fang has grown from an unhinged pack of suburban teen hellions to an unhinged pack of adult hellions without losing a lick of their fiercely DIY sensibility and joyously anarchic spirit. Grateful to Shred might be their opus.
The PDX Pop Now! 2011 Compilation
You can always count on the folks at PDX Pop Now! to keep tabs on every emerging and established local band—and to be scheming ways to include them in their yearly festival of Portland music. Their compilations are always an exhaustive reference of exactly what’s going on, and as such are indispensible.
Every Weird Digital Release by Rob Walmart
For lovers of pure chaos, language poetry, and screeching broken gear. The nameless collective of noise jammers that make up Rob Walmart (get it?) is like the punk conscience of the entire city’s music scene, always exhorting us to get off our high horses and get back in the van.
Portland is like a flytrap for pop-psychedelia albums. It’s just a sound that sticks here. This one, recorded in the dead of winter in a cabin on the Oregon coast while under the influence of Prince’s catalogue, floats perfectly in the Northwest atmosphere.
Red Fang—Murder the Mountains
How many arguments have gone down in local taverns over the superior Fang band, White or Red? My Portlandia blog cohort Matt P. Singer argues Red, I say White. Both made great albums this year. You decide.