Best Portland Albums of 2020

This year brought many speed bumps for us all. Portland, my hometown, in particular, experienced countless ups and downs. At one moment we were allowed everywhere with face masks and social distancing, then the next thing you know everything is shut down. We even lost a few bars and restaurants along the way (one can only hope that no more will parish and that our music venues will hold strong until the end). Amid the chaos and confusion, some of Portland’s best artists and bands still managed to put out new music – regardless of the fact that they knew they wouldn’t be able to play shows to support their new records.

I encourage you to check out their 2020 records on Spotify or your favorite streaming service, and then support these artists directly by purchasing a hard copy or other merchandise, too.

Candace
“Ideal Corners”

Dream pop rockers Candace released their third full-length record “Ideal Corners” this past spring on Little Cloud Records. Though this album matched its two predecessors’ soothing sound, the band also seemed to explore its fuzzy, psychedelic side this time around. “Still Phase,” the record’s single, is a clear standout with a flowing dance beat that you can’t help but sway to. It also made for a perfect song to blast in the summer with all of the car windows rolled down. Another standout is the album’s opener “Incandecse,” which is a prime example of the trio’s psychedelic guitar sound.

Salo Panto
“Bait EP”

Okay, this one isn’t an “album” per se, but this EP was too strong not to include. Salo Panto released their latest heavy psych EP “Bait” at the start of this year and managed to squeeze in a few live shows to promote the album, even during the pandemic! The five-piece’s previous EPs have broadcasted their fuzzy, loud sound, but this mini-album really showcases growth as they sound tighter than ever. The single and title track “Bait” takes you on a journey from melodic vocals and guitar to crisp drumming and heavy head-banging. It also features one of the best build-up guitar solos. Another easy listen is “Impatient Machine” with its layered, psych pop sound and smooth vocals.

Rose City Band
“Summerlong”

Rose City Band released its second record this year entitled “Summerlong,” following its self-titled album in 2019. The band is fronted by Ripley Johnson, a Portland resident and frontman of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo. The band follows a similar psychedelia sound to its two related bands, but with a sweet touch of country. Many of the songs on “Summerlong” are instrumentals, though two notable songs are “Only Lonely” with its beautiful lyrics and twangy sound and “Wildflowers” with its toe-tapping beat.

Deathlist
“You Won’t Be Here For Long”

Deathlist, fronted by Jenny Logan, released its fourth LP “You Won’t Be Here For Long” this year. While Deathlist’s haunting sound is always enjoyable, it seemed to make 2020 feel more relatable and not as daunting. The indie-rocker tends to sway on the sad, dark side, so this album was a perfect listen amid a pandemic. The album’s opening song and title track provides a too cool for you sound set on a drum machine. Another exceptional song on the record is “I Was Floating” with low bass and an almost-goth ring to it. It might even make you feel like you’re floating, too.

Ghost Frog
“Astral Arcade”

Heavy garage rockers Ghost Frog released their third full-length album “Astral Arcade” in 2020, and it was surely a heavy-hitter. The band draws many influences to make up its unique sound, including stoner, grunge psychedelic and punk. They also explore themes of sci-fi, horror and paranormal in their music and art. The four-piece produced a few standouts with “Kill Screen,” a groovy, heavy head-banger and “Data Sleeve,” a psychedelic stoner jam.