We asked the opbmusic staff for some of their favorite songs of the year by Oregon 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 hand-wringing, we pared it down to a batch of tracks we feel represents the best the Beaver State has to offer. In no particular order, here is opbmusic’s list of favorite songs by Oregon musicians released in 2019.

Read our Best Albums list here.

Y La Bamba – “Boca Llena”

It will come as no surprise to find Y La Bamba on our round-up of this year’s best songs — the challenge was picking just one. Following a three-year hiatus, bandleader Luz Elena Mendoza returned with a new sound, new bandmates and not one but two excellent records produced for the first time by Mendoza herself: LP “Mujeres” and EP “Entre Los Dos.” Falling in the middle of both the 14-track “Mujeres” and the album’s range of sound from pop to folk is “Boca Llena.” Over a dreamy guitar riff and driving bass, the track dives into the complexities of living through and beyond traumas of family and society while finding strength in the vulnerability of existing in-between. 

– Emily Reiling

No Aloha – “Dreams”

To traffic in the pop music space is to enjoy a good overstatement. For Portland’s No Aloha and their standout 2019 track “Dreams,” that overstatement translates to earworm guitar licks, rumbling bass and informing the listener about a dozen times “your dreams are dead.” Mostly, it’s the comically terrible bedside manner of singer-songwriter Brette Irish that makes the death knell for dreams so potent and hilarious: “Hey, remember that girl? / the one you love / she’s found a new man / they’re having a baby in May … on your birthday.” Here’s to the art of the pile-on. 

– Chance Solem-Pfeifer

Sleater-Kinney - “Hurry On Home”

In early 2019, Sleater-Kinney announced that its new album, “The Center Won’t Hold,” would be produced by St. Vincent, hinting at a significant change in the band’s sound. “Hurry On Home” still carries the sheer instrumental and vocal power that Sleater-Kinney is known for, but the band waits until the end of the song to unleash its full, almost industrial, sonic fury. Carrie Brownstein’s staccato vocals give way to driving guitar, making the release of all that pent-up energy worth the wait.

– Sararosa Davies

Summer Cannibals – “False Anthem”

Summer Cannibals open their 2019 record “Can’t Tell Me No” with the rhetorical and rhythmic gas pedal glued to the floor. “False Anthem” roars out of the gates to take down virtue signaling in song form—those “false anthems of empowerment.” While frontwoman Jessica Boudreaux doesn’t name names, the message is clear: pop-music politics are too facile, too flexible and too corruptible to be worth a damn. The bold implication, then, is that the anthem presently burning in your ears is legit. Cassi Blum’s blistering final guitar solo seals that deal.

– Chance Solem-Pfeifer

Anna Tivel – “Anthony”

It’s an impressive trick to turn something as startling as a house fire into an afterthought, and that’s exactly what Anna Tivel does in “Anthony.” Impermanence, and how quickly life can change, overshadows the vivid imagery of engulfing flames. You can almost hear them dancing between the flickering strings and ominously rustling percussion. In the end, the fire crescendos and burns out, leaving only the haunting refrain, “I thought I knew what forever meant.”

– Nate Sjol

MAITA – “Can’t Blame A Kid”

In only two minutes, MAITA cooly dismantles rock-song formula with a bravado usually reserved for veteran artists. Guitars crunch and drums drive in an attempt to set the pace, but it’s Maria Maita-Keppeler’s lyrics that carry the tune with a sense of laissez-faire urgency — she’s telling this story whether you’re listening or not. That push-and-pull creates a line masterfully towed by the band; a kind of relaxed frenetic energy that’s right at home in a rock song and relatable to anyone who has tried to reconcile their past, present, and future all at once.

– Chris Spicer

Dan Dan - “Circuit”

This song, by dance-pop group Dan Dan, was born out of the collaborative nature of Portland’s music scene. The first track on the “Paradise Hotel” compilation (produced by New Move Studios and released on local label Tender Loving Empire) begins with sparkling synths layering one over another. Bassist and singer Misty Mary rides this wave with dreamy, reverb-drenched vocals as bass, drums and tumbling synths eventually bounce off each other before retreating into quiet again.

– Sararosa Davies

Fruit Bats – “The Bottom Of It”

If you can imagine it stripped to its bare bones, “The Bottom of It” would remain a fantastic song. But on top of Eric D. Johnson’s chirping voice and acoustic guitar is a pretty amazing arrangement of tight drums, slide guitar and keyboards that provide enough ear candy to make this Fruit Bats song one of my favorites of 2019.

– Arthur C. Lee

 Kyle Craft - “Broken Mirror Pose”

Kyle Craft packs as much as he can into “Broken Mirror Pose,” off of his July release “Showboat Honey.” The song clocks in at under three minutes but is filled to the brim with melodic piano, Craft’s scratchy voice and the occasional burst of jangling guitar. But when the track moves from one section to the next, Kraft and his band pull back just enough to let the composition breathe. “Broken Mirror Pose” thrives in these quiet moments where you feel like anything could happen next.

– Sararosa Davies

Aan – “Wishin’ Well”

After two albums and a handful of EPs, I thought I had Portland rock band Aan pretty well figured out. Propelled by the powerful, unrestrained, and at times acerbic, voice of lead singer Bud Wilson, the group leaned heavily on off-kilter songwriting structures and loud, wailing guitars. With that in mind, nothing prepared me for their latest record, “Losing My Shadow.” The song “Wishin’ Well” is case in point. Incredibly funky bass lines and minor key synths have replaced the heavy guitars and Wilson’s voice as the primary drivers of the band’s sound. While restrained, the Aan frontman still shines brightly with bursts of oddly beautiful falsetto vocals.

– Jerad Walker

Black Belt Eagle Scout – “My Heart Dreams”

“At The Party With My Brown Friends,” the second album by Katherine Paul-fronted Black Belt Eagle Scout, arrived in August with a softness that the band had only hinted at on its distortion-filled debut. The album’s lyrics meditate on being indigenous and queer in today’s world (like much of Paul’s work), but there’s also a newfound sense of comfort, even celebration, musically and lyrically on songs like “My Heart Dreams.” In the song’s chorus, Paul sings over pristine guitar: “I need you / screaming loudly / screaming softly too.” Black Belt Eagle Scout is at its best here as Paul and company lean into tenderness without forgetting the squall of their previous work.

– Sararosa Davies

Reptaliens – “Shuggie II”

Reptaliens rock one of the weirdest live shows in the country (just watch their 2017 session with opbmusic for proof). With all the theatrics, it’s sometimes lost on listeners just how good of a band they are. But no amount of alien priests and guitar playing reptile-men can distract from the greatness of their song “Shuggie II.” It’s a true pop gem, with wavering keys, twinkling synths, and the infectious twee vocals of singer Bambi Browning.

– Jerad Walker

 Martha Stax – “Your Style”

In the opening lines of this horn-heavy party anthem, Martha Stax repeatedly chants “Hey you, I like your style / I don’t know what to say but I like your style.” Is it irreverent? Is it sincere? In true Portland fashion, it’s probably a little bit of both. One thing’s for certain, this is THE BEST song to listen to when you’re getting dressed!

– Tasha Hewett

TK & The Holy Know-Nothings – “Tunnel Of A Dream”

In early spring, charismatic singer Taylor Kingman (The Hill Dogs) unveiled his new project, TK and the Holy Know-Nothings. The band was essentially a Portland Americana supergroup with drummer Tyler Thompson and multi-instrumentalists Jay Cobb Anderson, Lewi Longmire and Sydney Nash rounding out the lineup. Their debut album, “Arguably OK,” included this almost 7-minute-long ramshackle ballad. As expected, the band hold their own here, but the real star is the group’s leader. As opbmusic wrote in April, Kingman’s voice “sounds like it could rip through a 200-foot tall Douglas fir tree.”

– Jerad Walker

Joseph - “Fighter”

Portland trio Joseph took another sonic leap forward in 2019 on their latest album “Good Luck, Kid.” Acoustic guitars take a back seat to more diverse production, and “Fighter” is a great introduction to that sound. Lyrically, the track speaks to not letting go and not giving up, which takes on even more meaning when you realize that the band nearly called it quits after a three-year hiatus. But thank goodness they didn’t hang it up because the sentiment of “Fighter” is the kind of message we all need in 2019. Turn it up and go fight for each other.

– Matthew Casebeer

Esperanza Spalding - “Lest We Forget (blood)”

Although technically not a resident of Oregon (she now lives in New York), Esperanza Spalding still spends a fair amount of time in her hometown of Portland and is arguably the city’s best-known musical export. Spalding became the first-ever jazz musician to win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2011, and she won three additional Grammy Awards over the next three years. Her new album, “12 Little Spells,” is nominated for two more in 2020. “Lest We Forget (blood)” resonates with an ethereal, healing quality that speaks to the heart and sets out to unite all who hear it.

– Evan Anderson