11 Oregon Artists To Watch In 2021
In the wake of the pandemic, all corners of Oregon's music scene ground to a halt. From singer-songwriters in the rural east, to hip-hop artists living in the bustling city of Portland, musicians stopped performing in public overnight. A year later, the Pacific Northwest's musicians are anxiously awaiting the reopening of music venues and the return to live gigs. With debuts and album releases in sight, here are 11 emerging artists hinting at the rebirth of Oregon's music industry.
Blackwater Holylight is the latest in a long line of extraordinary hard rock and metal bands from the state. Propelled by droning and muscular guitars, the band is heavily influenced by early Black Sabbath and psychedelic rock. With eerie synths, the dreamlike vocals of bassist Sunny Faris fill out their hypnotic sound. Blackwater Holylight's new album, Silence/Motion, is set to release in October.
In a cluster of East Oregon prairie towns near the Idaho border, a small but vibrant Americana and country music scene has gained a foothold. Songwriter Margo Cilker's weathered voice, an instrument that conjures up visions of wide-open spaces and wanderlust, has quickly made her one of its linchpins. Her debut album, Pohorylle, is due in November.
Astoria, Ore. is famously known as the filming location for much of the classic 1985 movie The Goonies and for promontory views of the Pacific Ocean. It's also the part-time home of Cooper Trail. A session and touring drummer, Trail has recently emerged as a force of his own. Under the moniker Desolation Horse, he released a twangy self-titled record late last year — filled with stream-of-consciousness lyrics and twinkly, lo-fi guitars as expansive as the ocean on his doorstep.
Fueled by the world-weary songwriting of singer Maya Stoner, Floating Room was forged in Portland's DIY rock scene. With Stoner's nonplussed vocal delivery, the band is at its best when knitting together elements of shoegaze and 1990s slacker rock. Though it's often the music's understated swagger and loud, jangly guitars pushing the songs forward, Floating Room's pop sensibilities set them apart from their peers and earn the band repeat listens. Floating Room is set to release an EP called Shima on Famous Class Records in November.
Based in the isolated high desert of Central Ore., emcee Jason Graham and producer Colten Tyler Williams comprise MOsley WOtta. The duo has challenged both their artistic boundaries and their audience's comfort zones by tackling concepts of identity, code switching and racism head on. Last year, they put out This Is (Not) All There Is, an impressive EP and one of the first releases on their newly founded label, Wake Records.
For his Ph.D. dissertation at Brown University, No-No Boy's Julian Saporiti recorded an album called 1975. That may not sound very rock 'n' roll, but this collection of songs is one of the most insurgent pieces of music you'll ever hear. Saporiti, who is Vietnamese-American, reexamines Americana on the record; it looks through the lens of Asian American history and experience — with devastating effect.
As a 17-year-old, Graham Jonson put out a batch of jazzy electronic mixtapes under the name quickly, quickly. The response to them was immediate and overwhelming; virtually overnight, the young musician garnered millions of plays on Spotify and Soundcloud. Now in his early 20s, quickly, quickly has blossomed into a vibrant one-man pop and R&B orchestra, representing a giant leap for the songwriter. The release of Jonson's debut record, The Long And Short Of It, is expected later this year.
Portland musician and editor in chief of beloved women-focused guitar publication She Shreds, Fabi Reyna is constantly pushing the boundaries of guitar music while paying homage to the past. Her band Reyna Tropical is a long-distance collaboration with Los Angeles producer and musician Sumohair. It fuses classic cumbia and Afro-Mexican influences with beautifully constructed, modern psychedelic soundscapes. Along with fellow Oregonians, Y La Bamba, the duo recently released a single called "Encerrada."
Slow Corpse is fronted by songwriters Mitchell Winters and Brenton Clarke, who play an off-kilter — sometimes oddball — brand of R&B inspired pop. Last year, during the historic wildfires that rampaged throughout the state, the two musicians saw parts of their hometown in Southern Ore. engulfed in flames. Astonishingly, they fought through grief and distraction, and released their second album in January.
Bocha & Donte Thomas
Individually, Bocha & Donte Thomas are two of Portland's finest hip-hop acts. But as of late, their work has been intertwined. Through one joint EP, a slew of guest features and the release of their single "GG #4," these emcees have teased the aural alchemy they're able to create together. A full-length record by the duo is set to release in July, through the label they also co-founded, Produce Organic Records.
The early rise of rapper Wynne was powered by her raw talent and a few viral moments on the internet, including a bizarre rumor that she was Eminem's daughter — not true. Since then, the Lake Oswego native has put her head down — methodically honing her craft in Portland's hip-hop scene and earning praise from fellow musicians, promoters and NBA superstar Damian Lillard along the way.