The Portland music scene is one of the best in the country, right there with Brooklyn, in terms of creativity and the constant flow of must see bands breaking nationally. Since 2004, Willamette Week has been conducting a “best knew” band poll of PDX’s musical tastemakers.
As an indication past winners have included Menomena, Talkdemonic, Copy, The Shaky Hands, and The Butchers and Builders.
This year’s winner was somewhat of a surprise, as most people figured that Blind Pilot would run away with the poll. After all the band went from little known “bicycle tour band” into a full-fledged nationally known act on the strength of its debut record 3 Rounds and a Sound. Of course, just becase they became the most talked about Portland band this past year, doesn’t guarantee anything.
Explode into Colors took home top honors in 2009, with Blind Pilot following in a second-place tie with Nurses.
Onstage, the trio’s varied backgrounds and musical aesthetics meld into one internationally informed barrage of sound. Shared influences include Japan’s the Boredoms and seminal NYC funk-hop quartet ESG, but EIC is its own animal. Meza and Schonberg make up a sludge-thick but danceable rhythm section, and Treadway alternates between giving the drums even more kick and providing melodic hooks on her various trambonies.
Portland—a city that has embraced original dance music with open arms over the past few years (see previous Best New Bands notables Starfucker and Copy)—has warmed to Explode Into Colors quickly. It’s hard to remember another act that has gained steam so quickly despite a lack of recorded material. But EIC already has a strong local following, separate label deals for three 7-inch records later this year, and a contract with Kill Rock Stars for a full-length release. They’ve been extensively blogged about, including a glowing report from an NME blogger who called the band “chubby grungey girls,” a quip they’re quick to laugh off as comically British.
Other bands to make the list include my two breakout bands from last year snotty punks White Fang and hootenanny folkie Jared Mees and The Grown Children; also making the list were Grouper, Y La Bamba, Guidance Counselor, Ah Holly Fam’ly, and finally, Old Believers.
Solid choices all around and a list that demonstrates Portland’s distinctive musical flavor. All of those bands have a unique and appealing sound – worth keeping them on your radar.
I’m a bit sad that Bark Hide and Horn didn’t make the list and it still baffles me that their debut album National Road went so overlooked and under-appreciated. I’m telling you until I’m blue in my face that those guys have greatness stamped all over them.
Photo by Cameron Browne.