The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to great music. Whether you’re looking for twangy folk sound, genre-bending jazz, underground hip-hop or indie-rock anthems, there’s an artist or band from our little corner of the country that’s perfect for your Spotify playlist.
Listed in alphabetical order, here are the new, the old, and the always amazing local bands that should be on the list. We even made a Local Portland playlist so you can swipe songs directly! Push that play button, and get to reading (feel free to dance and sing along, too).
Photo courtesy of Blind Pilot and Eric Ryan Anderson
Since their debut album in 2008, Blind Pilot has created a name for themselves both in the Northwest indie scene and across the country. There were five years between the group’s last release and their 2017 album, “And Then Like Lions”, but the graceful and reflective record did not disappoint.
Blitzen Trapper has been jamming since 2000, but 2007 brought their third album, “Wild Mountain Nation” and the first to be released with a major record label. The title track landed on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007 and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, the group has released six more albums, including “Wild and Reckless” in 2017 and three live albums.
Blossom has one of the most unique sounds and voices coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Both jazzy and soulful, she’s cemented her spot in Portland’s underground hip-hop scene — especially with local record label EYRST behind her. With them, she released “Tease”, a full-length album, in July 2017 and it proved she’s here to stay.
Noisy, chaotic, punk, disco — all these adjectives are suitable for describing this Portland-based electronic band. Their first critically-acclaimed album was released in 2007 and since then, they’ve been featured on multiple shows, including “Riverdale”, “Gossip Girl” and “13 Reasons Why”. In total, the band has 11 full-length albums available on Spotify — so there’s plenty more to listen to outside of your favorite Netflix original.
Photo courtesy of The Decemberists
This quirky and crooning quintet has been breaking hearts — and mending them, mostly through laughter — since their debut album was released in 2002. Colin Meloy’s theatrical and hyper-literate pop lyrics are often history and literature based. And they even have a rock opera under their belt: 2009’s “The Hazards of Love”. If you’re not already a superfan of this hysterical and musical group, just give them a quick listen on Spotify, where you’ll find nine albums as well as 18 singles and EPs.
At just 31 years of age, Esperanza Spalding has released seven collaborative and five solo albums. Based on jazz traditions, but always expanding on them, her work has been impressing both local and international listeners for more than ten years. So much so that she’s won four GRAMMY awards and performed at the Oscars, the Nobel Prize Ceremony, the White House, and with Prince and Herbie Hancock. If you haven’t listened yet, it’s about time you did!
When word came that this post-punk trio was reuniting in 2016, Portland, well, exploded. Back in 2009, they won Willamette Week‘s Best New Band poll, signed to Kill Rock Stars, then broke up in 2010 without ever releasing a full-length record. The years 2016 and 2017 brought us frequent live shows from the group, and 2018 promises even more as well as some new music! Follow Explode into Colors on Facebook to stay up-to-date.
In just a few, short years, Portland-based Fruition moved from busking on the street to opening tours for bands like ALO and Greensky Bluegrass — and eventually to playing festivals like Bonnaroo and Telluride Bluegrass. Now, they’re a beloved quintet playing both local and national shows in places like the Crystal Ballroom and Colorado’s famed Red Rocks.
Photo courtesy of Haley Heynderickx and Alessandra Leimer
The music of Haley Heynderickx is driven by simplicity, honesty and a characteristic delicacy. Her newest single, released in September 2017, is as folky as the rest but offers a silliness that is a welcome surprise. Her newest full-length record “I Need to Start a Garden”, will be released in early 2018 through indie record label Mama Bird Recording Co. Their specialty is exceptional songcraft according to the team, so we think Haley fits right in.
Assisted by a rotating cast of supporting musicians, Justin Ringle is the frontman behind all ten years of this Portland-based indie folk band. For the most recent release, he had a team of musicians at his back, including guitars, vocalists, violins, mandolins, saws, drums, bass and a pedal steel guitar. On Spotify, you can find all five releases from 2006 through 2014, so you’ll get plenty of twangy, folk sound.
Juneau-born and Portland-based, songwriter Matt Sheehy named this indie folk band after Land Lake, a place his mother spoke about as a relic of her mid-western childhood. Driven by this nostalgia, it makes sense that their sound and lyrics would evoke feelings of both love and loss, gloom and exuberance. You can hear it all in their most recent 2015 release, “Medallion”.
Indie rock found a home in Portland for a reason, and Mimicking Birds is one of the city’s favorites. Since signing to Glacial Pace Recordings in 2008, they’ve toured with fellow local bands, including Modest Mouse and Blitzen Trapper, as well as Fleet Foxes, The Tallest Man on Earth, and Conor Oberst. Their newest album comes out later this month on January 26 and the group is celebrating with a national tour, so there are plenty of chances to hear their indie sound for yourself!
Formed in Issaquah, Washington and currently based in Portland, it’s usually safe to assume you’ve heard a Modest Mouse song — even if you didn’t realize it. As one of the most popular musical groups out of PDX, they’ve been making international, indie rock hits since the 1990s, including their most well-known jams “Float On”, “Dashboard” and “The World at Large”.
Myke Bogan’s debut LP may lean more on the introspective side than past singles, but it still stays true to his classic party rapper style. Released by Portland record label EYRST, the album features other locals (and EYRST artists) including Blossom and The Last Artful, Dodgr.
This Portland-based folk band was originally formed in Eugene in Evan’s living room. In the early years, the band relocated to LA where they released their first album and began work on their second, which was released on their return to Oregon for a slower pace and a change of scenery. Since “Yearling”, they’ve exploded on the PDX music scene and released three more successful albums including their most recent, “Blurred Harmony”, in 2017.
Portland’s own “little orchestra” was born from a desire to provide more beautiful, lively and inclusive soundtracks for political fundraisers on civil rights, affordable housing, cleaning up the Willamette River, funding for libraries, public broadcasting, education, and parks. Now featuring a dozen musicians, the group’s 2017 album features sounds and lyrics in French, Farsi, Armenian, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Xhosa and English!
The band’s name on Twitter is LORDS OF PORTLAND so it’s safe to say they’ve adopted PDX as their hometown despite having formed in Wasilla, Alaska. Their mix of alternative rock and psychedelic experimentation is one that has blended well with the Pacific Northwest music scene — and has exploded across the nation. Their most recent album, “Woodstock”, was released in 2017 and is nearly 40 minutes of pure fun.
Formerly known as Remix Artist Collective, these days RAC is the solo project of Portuguese DJ and producer André Allen Anjos. In recent years, he has gained fame for more than 200 remixes of everything from Tokyo Police Club to Penguin Prison. And in 2017, André won the GRAMMY award for Best Remixed Recording. You can check out his remixes and original songs on Spotify!
You may know Zooey Deschanel from “Elf”, “New Girl” and “500 Days of Summer”, but did you know she’s part of the musical duo She & Him? Teamed up with M. Ward, the band has released both original songs and Christmas albums, both of which have captivated soothing duet and indie folk lovers since the first release in 2008.
Formed in Albuquerque, but based in Portland, The Shins are a sense of local pride for many Portlanders (and for superfans all over the country). Their first album “Oh, Inverted World” was released in 2001 and their most recent, “Heartworms’, was just released in March 2017 — with three full-length albums released in between, so they’re definitely not slowing down anytime soon.
Who’s on your playlist?
Share your favorite Portland-based artists in the comments below!