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opbmusic Best of 2016: Songs We Love


We asked the opbmusic staff for some of their favorite songs of the year by local acts: songs that we loved on first listen, songs that grew on us, songs we couldn’t get out of our heads. Paring it down to just 13 wasn’t easy, but some common favorites eventually emerged. Here’s opbmusic’s list of favorite songs from 2016 by Oregon musicians:

Fruit Bats - From A Soon-To-Be Ghost Town

I have a soft spot for what I like to call melancholy driving music, and the opening track from Fruit Bats’ Absolute Loser fits pretty snugly into that space. It’s one of the finest in their catalogue, and vividly captures the beautiful sadness that we all deal with while getting older and, well, moving on (or not). Play it loud as you pull away. Extra credit for the impeccable hyphenation in the title. - Mike Dempsey, opbmusic DJ

 Divers - Achin’ On

Willamette Week’s Best New Band poll winner of 2015 is delivering on that promise one single at a time. This year, we got even more swagger from Portland’s Divers. “Achin’ On” sounds as if the Boss — wearing a Clash t-shirt and Iggy Pop’s tight leather pants — jumped on stage with the Replacements. In case you’re wondering, that’s a good thing. It’s a propulsive jaunt with a melodic soaring lead guitar and, when it ends after only 2:26, “Achin’ On” leaves the listener (dare I say) aching for more. This song is the reason the repeat button was invented. - JT Griffith, opbmusic DJ

Y La Bamba - Libre

Perhaps no album this year intrigued the staff at opbmusic more than Y La Bamba’s fourth full-length record Ojos Del Sol. A full year before it’s official release, the Portland band, fronted by singer Luz Elena Mendoza, previewed the new songs for us live during a gorgeous session (one of our best ever). After that performance, expectations were pretty high, but the finished product still impressed. With it’s West African-inspired lead guitar, Latin rhythms, English and Spanish lyrics, and choruses that are… actually choral, “Libre” is an obvious standout.  - Jerad Walker, opbmusic Music Director

 Radiation City - Juicy

Radiation City’s “Juicy” starts off as a lo-fi, moody, modern background ballad but slowly morphs into a multi-layered, hook-driven, and, dare I say, good old fashioned pop song. With an unpredictable Hard Days Night style outro, the track sets the tone for the band’s final album Synesthetica, which is one of the best of 2016. What I’m trying to say is, I love it. - Sarah Donofrio, opbmusic DJ

STRFKR - Tape Machine

“Tape Machine,” the first track from STRFKR’s 5th studio album, Being No One, Going Nowhere, is an outstanding song, layered with warm synth sounds, a groove-out bass line, and catchy vocal melodies, all fitting in nicely around a drum beat that I could dance to all night long.” - Arthur Lee, opbmusic DJ

Joseph - White Flag

I first saw Joseph several years ago at Mississippi Studios. Back then, the show was an impressive, but bare, trio of voices with only a lone acoustic guitar for accompaniment. They have since elevated their sound and songwriting to include a full backing band on their 2016 album I’m Alone, No You’re Not. The lead single, “White Flag,” enhances everything I loved from years ago. The impeccable vocals remain front-and-center, highlighted and surrounded by the band. Layers of harmonic hums & oohs round out the sound, and the chorus is a soaring anthem about not giving up. It’s a sentiment everyone can get behind in 2016. - Matthew Casebeer, opbmusic DJ

Kyle Craft - Lady Of The Ark

Kyle Craft’s Dolls of Highland is my favorite Portland album of 2016. With its Gothic themes and wailing chorus (and Craft’s voice really is a wail), “Lady of the Ark” is the track that best captures his mysterious lyrics and classic rock sound— a sound that has kept the song at the top of my playlists all year long. - Molly Woon, opbmusic DJ

Kool Stuff Katie - It’s All Your Fault

In late 2014, I was in my kitchen listening to Kool Stuff Katie’s self-titled debut album when, out of the blue, my then two year old son picked up a ladle and started to strum it like a guitar. It was the first time he’d ever done anything like that. I was impressed with the quality of that debut album, but with that act, the band claimed a special place in my heart. 2016 saw the release of the duo’s second album, another great blast of pop-rock called It’s Fine. Written in Portland and Hood River, OR, the new album was recorded by Steve Fisk (Posies, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Damien Jurado, The Afghan Whigs). Kicking off the record in style, the lead track “It’s All Your Fault” is two-and-a-half minutes of wonderful pop-rock that will have you cranking up the stereo and rejoicing in the glorious sound a kick-ass two-piece band can make. I dare you to listen to “It’s All Your Fault” and not bust out either an air guitar or a ladle.  - Francis Storr, opbmusic DJ

 case/lang/veirs - Delirium

Supergroups can enter dicey territory. For every Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, there are a dozen versions of Slash’s Snakepit. So, when it was announced that Neko Case was teaming up with Portlanders Laura Veirs and k.d. lang for an album, I was more than a little skeptical. I’m happy to report that case/lang/veirs is not Slash’s Snakepit. In fact, it was one of the best releases of 2016 and included the beautiful song called “Delirium,” featuring Neko Case on lead vocals with Veirs and lang providing exceptional backing. - Jerad Walker, opbmusic Music Director

Fog Father - Trapped In A Web

The song “Trapped in a Web” by avant-garde Portland rockers Fog Father does not have an official music video, but it could easily serve as stand-in theme music for spooky hit Netflix show Stranger Things. Soaked in 80’s synth tones and experimental reverberations, the song really does sound like the perfect sci-fi soundtrack (Do monsters on the loose in small Indiana towns throw dance parties?). “Trapped in a Web” was released in May of this year as the lead single for the band’s full-length debut, The Plague of Fantasies. The album still hasn’t dropped, and Fog Father is apparently keeping us in suspense as to when it will. - Laura Hardin, opbmusic DJ

Kyle Morton - Survivalist Fantasy

Kyle Morton is best-known as the songwriter and lead singer of Portland indie rock band Typhoon. That sprawling project is a collaboration between about a dozen musicians. But here, he steps out on his own in striking fashion. Morton’s solo debut, What Will Destroy You, is filled with beautiful, melancholy folks songs, but “Survivalist Fantasy” is the absolute darkest and prettiest of them all. - Jerad Walker, opbmusic Music Director

Ages and Ages - As It Is

Ages and Ages’ choral pop sound provides for an uplifting and infectious listen, and their song, “As It Is,” is no different. It’s sentimental and begins with the tone of a quiet prayer or a simple conversation you might have with a close friend. But halfway through the track, a choir comes in belting out the chorus “Find your peace in anonymity” in truly epic fashion. And with that, Ages and Ages caps another triumphant anthem with a mantra you didn’t know you were missing. It’s a song that will surely get you through the toughest day. - Michael Cavazos, opbmusic DJ

Summer Cannibals - Full Of It

Summer Cannibals are one of my favorite bands in Portland right now, and their 2016 album Full Of It is a big reason why. With distorted guitars, fuzzed out bass, charging drums and cutting but clear vocals, the album’s title track best represents the strengths of this four piece rock band that picks up where The Breeders, L7, and Sleater-Kinney first left off. - Jeff Poteet, opbmusic contributor

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