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Revisiting Oregon's Top Music Releases Of 2012

OPB | Jan. 1, 2013 2:45 a.m. | Updated: Jan. 1, 2013 9:48 a.m.

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Jeremy Petersen

Jeremy Peterson with OPB Music joined Geoff Norcross in studio to talk about the best releases of 2012. Click “Play” above to hear the whole conversation - including samples from musicians.

Here’s what Peterson writes about the bands whose albums made the list:

Y La Bamba, “Court the Storm”

If you’re into classifications, the music of Y La Bamba might present a bit of a challenge. On one hand, the band has emerged from the heart of Portland’s fruitful indie folk scene, one of the shining stars in the crown of increasingly visible local label Tender Loving Empire. On the other, the band draws heavy influence from the canciones of singer Luz-Elena Mendoza’s childhood— the resulting hybrid makes them one of the most interesting sounds in Portland. They teamed with Los Lobos multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin on production in crafting a gorgeous and moving record. Click for the OPB Music session.

Brainstorm, “Heat Waves”

Portland band Brainstorm performs in the opbmusic studio.

Portland band Brainstorm performs in the opbmusic studio.

Nathan Quigley / OPB

Another release on Tender Loving Empire, Heat Waves was the long-awaited full-length debut from Brainstorm after a series of EP and single releases. Notable for the inclusion of a baritone tuba, the duo first appeared on the scene as a frenetic force a couple of years ago. They’ve since expanded to a trio and embraced the polyrhythmics and rising and falling guitar scales of Afrobeat. They also put on one of the best live shows I saw all year. Click for the OPB Music session.

Black Prairie, “A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart”

Originally notable for the fact that they were a band that contained 3/5 of The Decemberists (now, unofficially, 4/5 as John Moen lends percussion and back-up vocals this go-around), Black Prairie came into their own on their second album. Indeed, The Decemberists connection almost seems incidental at this point. The real revelation on this record is the singing of Annalisa Tornfelt (who also plays fiddle and, of course, nyckelharpa). Whereas almost all of the band’s debut was instrumental, Tornfelt lends clear, bright vocals to the majority of the cuts here, and is particularly essential on one of our favorite songs of the year, the shuffling, infectious “How Do You Ruin Me?” Click for the OPB Music session on Black Prairie’s first album.

Lost Lander, “DRRT”

The debut record from the new project from singer-songwriter Matt Sheehy (who had released a previous effort under his own name), DRRT marries Sheehy’s melodies and words inspired largely by the natural world with the dynamic production of Brent Knopf, whose touch here is reminiscent of his past work as a member of Menomena and as leader of his current project Ramona Falls. It’s a combination of synthetic and organic that works well. Click for the OPB Music session.

Boy Eats Drum Machine, “The Battle”

Jon Ragel is one-man act Boy Eats Drum Machine, and as impressive as his recordings have been it’s the fact that he’s able to pull off the same sound as a live act (vocals, turntables, saxophone, percussion) that really blows minds. The Battle tends to be as intense as its title might indicate, Ragel’s layered production— including vintage samples and Afrobeat-inspired horn lines— set against a theme of good vs. evil. Nowhere does the action get hotter than album standout “Royal Countess.” Click for a 2008 OPB Music session with Boy Eats Drum Machine.

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