Mimicking Birds performs in the opbmusic studio

Mimicking Birds performs in the opbmusic studio

Nate Sjol/opbmusic

We asked the opbmusic staff for some of their favorite songs of the year by locally based musicians: songs that we loved on first listen, songs that grew on us, songs we simply couldn’t get out of our heads. After some handwringing, we pared it down to a batch of tracks that we feel represents the best that the Beaver State has to offer. In no particular order, here’s opbmusic’s list of favorite songs from 2018 by Oregon musicians:


Richard Swift - “Broken Finger Blues”

The late Richard Swift was a prolific producer, whose home studio in Cottage Grove, Oregon, was the creative workspace for high-profile records by The Shins, The Black Keys, Guster, Damien Jurado and Pure Bathing Culture among many others. Swift also released eight solo albums of his own, including this year’s posthumous release “The Hex.” Swift ostensibly wrote “Broken Finger Blues” after having a cast removed from his broken finger, though the song’s lonely lyrics and sweet soulful falsetto reach into a much deeper place of longing and pain. — David Christensen, opbmusic program director


Mimicking Birds - “Sunlight Daze”

“Sunlight Daze” begins with a melody that gently hums above the main chord progression and swirls through verses and choruses surrounded by lush instrumentation made up of synths, echoing guitars and a driving beat. It’s a sonic performance that transports you to another world, and singer Nate Lacy’s lyrics, which include references to “the lunar parallactic shadow” and “atomic fire of nucleons,” certainly help as well. — Arthur C. Lee, opbmusic DJ


Chanti Darling - “Casual” feat. The Last Artful, Dodgr

When these two Portland-based musicians teamed up, the result was anything but what the track’s title might suggest. “Casual” soars with the momentum of Chanti Darling vocalist Chanticleer Trü’s smooth, visceral sound (a fresh blend of funk, R&B and house) but The Last Artful, Dodgr cuts through with a measured coolness and style. Together, they create a track designed to elevate — the temperature, the mood and their place in our favorite releases of 2018. — Emily Reiling, opbmusic contributor


Haley Heynderickx - “Untitled God Song”

Haley Henderickx grew up in a religious family in Forest Grove, Oregon. Clearly formative, the theme of discovering one’s own spirituality permeates the complex tracks on her debut album “I Need To Start A Garden.” In “Untitled God Song,” she playfully approaches who her God could be. Here, Heynderickx’s exemplary high-range moves from anxious with pinpoint pitch changes to confident with utmost grace as she weaves through possible answers. — Steven Williams, opbmusic DJ


Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “Hunnybee”

This track from Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s fourth full-length record, “Sex And Food,” starts with a violin that sweeps across your ears like a beaded curtain. That intro reveals a lush sonic hideaway as the song sets off on a full minute of instrumental funky grooves before vocalist Ruban Nielson even sings a note. And what follows is one of the most infectious songs of the year. — Morgan McDonald, opbmusic DJ


Laura Gibson - “Tenderness”

Laura Gibson’s lyrical portrait of a relationship undergoing a violent life cycle is there if you look for it on “Tenderness.” But underneath the song’s sharp, imagistic refrains, it’s made captivating and accessible by a humming bass line and a serpentine string arrangement that’s equal parts Enya and Howard Shore. The result is an entrancing nursery rhyme liable to turn into the half-redacted lines of a memoir, and then back to a nursery rhyme again. — Chance Solem-Pfeifer, opbmusic DJ


Lithics - “Edible Door”

In May, Lithics released their sophomore effort, “Mating Surfaces,” an album that shoved the post-punk outfit to the forefront of Portland’s music scene. This song, “Edible Door,” combines precise rhythms, staccato bass lines and a real sense of urgency — creating a nervous dance that few bands have conjured since the B-52s. — Michael Baden, opbmusic DJ


The Decemberists - “Once In My Life”

The Decemberists’ 2018 release, “I’ll Be Your Girl,” was filled with clever lyrics and a wide variance of musical styles. But the best of the album was “Once In My Life,” which was founded on the simplest of lyrics and a classic acoustic guitar strumming pattern. But as the song builds, it quickly evolves from a folk song to a beautifully soaring anthem centered around one universal verse of frustration, pain, anger and sadness. — Ray Gill, opbmusic contributor


YOB - “Our Raw Heart”

YOB’s latest album, the sublime “Our Raw Heart,” was written in 2017 during a period when guitarist and singer Mike Scheidt thought he truly might die. The album, the Eugene-based doom-metal band’s eighth, is bookended by two incredible songs, opener “Ablaze” and an extended closing title track. It’s that 14-minute song that I’ve spent the most time with. Marrying brilliantly heavy riffage with uplifting lyrics, “Our Raw Heart” is the perfect way to close out YOB’s best work to date. — Francis Storr, opbmusic DJ


Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - “Shiggy”

The former Pavement frontman released his seventh, and quite possibly his best, solo album this year, the excellently titled “Sparkle Hard.” On a record filled with warm tones and singsong lyrics, “Shiggy” stands out with its wailing electric guitars, yelping vocals and a thumping bass line that’s impossible to shake once it gets stuck in your brain. — Jerad Walker, opbmusic music director


Turtlenecked - “Knocked Down By Another Ghost”

“Knocked Down by Another Ghost” is one of those deceptive songs that, if you don’t listen to the words too closely, provides an ideal soundtrack to speeding down a back road on a carefree summer night. But lyrically, Turtlenecked’s Harrison Smith seems to be speeding through an existential crisis. Searing and witty, the opening track from “High Scores of the Heart” wholeheartedly dives into the growing pains of being a 20-something. — Emily Reiling, opbmusic contributor


Matt Dorrien - “Baby I’m So Lost”

“Baby I’m So Lost” is the first track on Matt Dorien’s debut solo album (the aptly titled “In The Key Of Grey”) and the song sets the tone for the entire album — and maybe the long-awaited Portland winter as well. It’s a beautiful love letter to wallowing in the misery of love lost and the quiet comfort of dwelling in the drunken bliss that sometimes follows. — Gerard O’Sullivan, opbmusic contributor


Sama Dams - “Pockets”

For most of its existence, Portland band Sama Dams has been a vehicle for its namesake, multi-instrumentalist and primary songwriter, Sam Adams. But the band has increasingly grown into a collaborative effort with Sam and bandmate/spouse, Lisa Adams, sharing lead vocals and effortlessly trading instruments onstage. That democratic approach paid huge dividends on the song “Pockets,” which features all three of the band’s talented members — Lisa with soaring lead vocals, fantastic pitch-shifting keys work from Sam, and impressive jazz-influenced rhythm by drummer Chris Hermsen. — Jerad Walker, opbmusic music director


Anna Tivel - “Fenceline”

Beautiful in its shimmering strings and Tivel’s gritty yet tender vocals as it is devastating in its commentary on borders and loss of humanity, “Fenceline” is both timely and timeless. It comes from her much-anticipated 2019 release, “The Question,” due out in April 2019 via Fluff and Gravy Records. — Emily Reiling, opbmusic contributor


Frankie Simone - “War Paint”

When Frankie Simone’s percussive queer-pop anthem “War Paint” dropped this spring, it ushered in a new wave of socially conscious Northwest pop. The track, from Simone’s Love//Warrior EP, is a rebellion of expectations of what music in Portland is and whose voices matter in the city’s ever evolving music scene. Catchy and polished with a clear message. Be you. What could be more Portland than that? — Kelsey Greco, opbmusic contributor


Ural Thomas and The Pain - “No Distance (Between You & Me”

One retro strain of R&B that never quite came back around was that of The Impressions and their earnest, gospel-driven, “People Get Ready” sentiment. Enter Ural Thomas, who on the second track of his album, “The Right Time,” is looking to uplift. “No Distance” is a smooth call to action without cause or context other than to fight isolation with closeness, from here to eternity. The best antidote to the exhaustion and overload of 2018 just might be a good, honest platitude. Let’s get together. — Chance Solem-Pfeifer, opbmusic DJ


Cool American - “Focus”

One-man-band Nathan Tucker released an EP called “Better Luck Next Year Vol. 3” in February under his stage name, Cool American. The album was mostly filled with folk rock, but this track is a stone cold modern R&B slow jam. Subtle, sultry and short at only two minutes long, “Focus” leaves you wanting more. — Jerad Walker, opbmusic music director


Boreen - “Lovely”

The title track off of Boreen’s latest LP release, “Lovely,” picks you up and takes you for a ride on waves of bubbly synths and acoustic guitars that flow in and out, with quiet breaks building into emotional peaks. And the song makes you feel as if you’re having an intimate conversation with a close friend, as singer Morgan O’Sullivan gives a glimpse into the life of a struggling artist with lines like: “I sleep on the floor, then go on stage and go back home to the minimum wages.” — Max Robinson, opbmusic DJ


Bootes Void - “Gravity”

Bootes Void is the project of multi-instrumentalist (and NYC Conservatory of Music graduate) Joey Harmon, whose debut album, “Cave Paintings,” came out in July. “Gravity,” the record’s opening song, begins with a psyched-out guitar riff and steady, driving drums before making way for a great melody. Then halfway through, it takes a surprising turn in a swirl of erratic piano and synths before coming to an abrupt resolution. On “Cave Paintings,” Harmon has found a balance between slightly unnerving instrumentation and comforting melodies that keeps me coming back to discover all of the intricacies built into every one of his songs. — Matthew Casebeer, opbmusic DJ


bed. - “Replay”

bed.’s “Replay” is the title track and a true standout from the band’s long-awaited debut record. The song finds Sierra Haager, one half of the husband-wife duo that fronts the band, working through childhood trauma. The heavy lyrics are punctuated by blistering electric guitar progressions and choppy bass from Alex Haager that seem to fill in what’s left unsung. — Emily Reiling, opbmusic contributor


Slow Corpse - “Blooming”

Based in the southern Oregon town of Ashland, oddball R&B-tinged band Slow Corpse released my favorite summer jam of the year. “Blooming,” from the album “Fables,” is funky, off-kilter, and — most importantly for any great poolside tune — just damn fun.  — Jerad Walker, opbmusic music director


Blackwater Holylight - “Babies”

The ingredients are simple enough on this track from Portland rock band Blackwater Holylight. The bass kicks things off, another guitar joins in, add drums, and it’s rounded out by whispered vocals that sound like the spirits of wind and rain. Put together, “Babies” is more complex than that — haunting, powerful, potentially dangerous and vulnerable, all at once. And it’s the perfect soundtrack for winter walks and contemplation. — Tasha Hewett, opbmusic DJ


Typhoon - “Empiricist”

This sprawling, 10-member Portland band released “Offerings” way back in January. Typhoon’s fourth full-length record, but its first in almost five years, found bandleader and singer Kyle Morton in a relatively gloomy mood. Among a batch of dark, towering epics, “Empiricist” was the darkest, loudest and longest of them all. — Jerad Walker, opbmusic music director


Blossom & Ripley Snell - “Casting Couch”

This summer, EYRST Records released a four-song EP called “Clout Atlas :: Dormiveglia,” which was a collaboration between singer Blossom and emcee Ripley Snell. On “Casting Couch,” Blossom showcases the mellow, luxurious vocals that have made her a crown jewel in Portland’s hip-hop and R&B scene. — Isabel Lyndon, opbmusic DJ


Miss Rayon - Red Plum

Eric Sabatino, the Portland native who fronts Miss Rayon, cites ESG and Sonic Youth as influences. With “Red Plum,” he’s certainly on brand. And while the song has a distinctly nostalgic ‘90s feel (I also hear hints of Manchester rock in the song’s looping bass line and even early Ladytron), the lyrics and production stand out as completely modern and unique. — Sarah Donofrio, opbmusic DJ


Fruition - “Fire”

Fruition’s Tucker Martine-produced song “Fire” perfectly encapsulates the band’s evolution from an acoustic bluegrass outfit to a rock band with pop ambitions, albeit with serious string proclivities. Their Americana core is still evident but now it’s elevated by an epic rock sensibility. For a Portland band that has already headlined the Crystal Ballroom and played at Red Rocks, the future seems very promising. And it’s refreshing to hear this burgeoning original rock outfit bursting out of the Rose City. — JT Griffith, opbmusic DJ