Jubilee Riots – Penny Black

Firebrand, 2014

Previously known as Enter The Haggis, these Canadians may have changed their name and added/subtracted members, but they retain their Celtic and Scottish influences while moving into new avenues of power-pop, indie-rock and warm folk sounds where dual gender vocals are used in the best sense. An extremely varied listen that is immediately memorable, it’s also enthusiastic and better than all the Mums and Leons out there right now.

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Christian Lopez Band – Pilot

Blaster, 2014

At just 19, Lopez is a product of his surroundings and influences, as he channels the warm folksy Americana sounds of his mountainous region with the rootsy rock infiltration of indie-rock today. Primarily using banjos, guitars and pretty vocal melodies, Lopez and company can navigate their way around a raw, rustic, alt-country tune, resulting in a glowing debut. This is a great EP, and the future LP should be fantastic.

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Bike Thief – Stuck In A Dream

The Musebox, 2014

This first album from Bike Thief takes the neo-folk ideas of their Portland home and adds dramatic strings, haunting choirs and the sort of experimentalism that sounds both cinematic and prog-rockish. An extremely detailed affair, there’s more than 20 musicians involved, though the songs never sound busy and flow well between soft and pensive to swirling, fully developed chamber rock. A fantastic debut.

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Sean Flinn & The Royal We – The Lost Weekend

Glad I Did, 2014

Portland folk-rock is a deep pool these days, but few are like Sean Flinn & The Royal We. Though they utilise the backing harmonies and handclapping of their peers, theirs is an overall more sunny approach to the lush sounds of the Northwest, balancing pop-rock and grittier indie-rock while paying much attention to melody. Lyrically it’s just as compelling, as Flinn tackles important topics with an equal amount of thought as his sophisticated music.

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Ages And Ages – Divisionary

Partisan, 2014

An eight piece, all of whom sing, Ages And Ages keep the nearly untarnishable ideal of Portland folk-pop alive with soaring harmonies, warm melodies and plenty of hand clapping. Though the music is generally indie-lite and upbeat, the band have been marred by personal strife while making the album, so lyrically it’s a more downcast affair then their jubilant debut. Make room on your year end list for this one.

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Dramady – Answer Only To The Sea

Cochon, 2013

Portland is never short on unusual indie-rock, and Amanda Mason Wiles and Zacery Stanley are delivering their own atypical brand as Dramady. At the core it may be bedroom pop, but the violins, clarinets and saxophones bring to mind chamber-pop from a unique standpoint, placing much emphasis on looping and vocal harmonies. Jazz, electronica and funk ideas are all in their arsenal, keeping each track full of cultured surprises.

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