Up-And-Coming Portland Musicians: Holocene’s 2013 Year-End Bands To Watch

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we’ve once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Here, Gina Altamura and Van Pham of the innovative, multimedia-minded nightclub Holocene give us the scoop on Portland bands to watch.

To pay proper homage to the musical grandness of 2013 and to usher in the new year 2014, we’ve once again decided to call upon our tastemaker friends to compile their favorite up-and-comers throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Here, Gina Altamura and Van Pham of the innovative, multimedia-minded nightclub Holocene give us the scoop on Portland bands to watch (and see their 2012 list here. Those who are interested in the Seattle scene can view the picks of the stylish boutique shop and venue, Cairo, here.



Aan __ www.facebook.com/weareaan

I’ve believed wholeheartedly in the exceptional talent of Aan’s Bud Wilson ever since I first heard his emotionally riveting avant-rock back in 2009. Fast-forward to the present, and Aan is experiencing a well-deserved breakout year. After extensive touring — including a string of dates with the Smashing Pumpkins — the band is in top form. Even in mid-size nightclubs, Aan puts on a show fit for an arena with their sheer dynamism and technical skill. Bud is a multi-faceted crooner, capable of delicate romance and ferocious vitriol alike, and he deftly charts a course across this wide emotional territory: a map of Amor Ad Nauseum (the title of Aan’s excellent upcoming debut LP). With the recent addition of Brainstorm‘s Patrick Phillips — ecstatic West African-influenced guitar shredder — to the live band, I can only imagine 2014 will be even more exciting for this group. GINA ALTAMURA

(Editor’s Note: Aan will be playing Holocene’s next film score series, Fin De Cinema, on Purse Candy and Philip Grass; they will be scoring the Japanese animation, Night on the Galactic Railroad. See more details here. Their next record, Amor Ad Nauseum, drops February 1st, 2014.)

Phone Call www.facebook.com/phonecallsound

An incarnation of Portland’s favorite disco sons, Strength, Phone Call kicks it up a couple of decades with their hard-hitting hip-hop beats, and introduces more assertive synth lines in lieu of Strength’s guitar-heavy grind. It’s unabashedly — if not absurdly — sexy, with plenty of space for singer Bailey Winters’ charismatic swagger to shine through. There’s a little Prince, a little JT, and a gleeful dive into the deep reaches of boogie funk crate. Some wear your sunglasses at night/Miami Vice vibes or at least they’ll make you think that it’s getting a little hot in here… But there’s no mistaking: they’re here to make us dance, and maybe leave the place with somebody tonight. VAN PHAM

(Editor’s Note: Phone Call play Holocene on New Year’s Eve, with Le1f, Shy Girls, and PWRHAUS… along with DJ slots from Miracles Club and Radiation City. Details here.)

Natasha Kmeto __ www.natashakmeto.com/

Natasha Kmeto is a total badass. Unpoetic I know, but nonetheless the most satisfying descriptor for this futuristic soul diva. She’s an expert at working a crowd, and as a solo performer relying on electronics, this is especially impressive. As a producer, her adventurous bass music is powerful and entrancing, while her vocal delivery is more captivating still. Her unabashed reflections on the vicissitudes of love and the trials of artistic ambition are belted out with incredibly authentic emotion, lending her music an immortal quality of spiritual resonance. GINA ALTAMURA

Grammies __ grammies.bandcamp.com

Earning respect from both pop and experimental audiences (like Portland’s luminous Creative Music Guild), Grammies are here to scoff at your genres and blow your minds — an engaging confluence of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and noise, expertly composed by a duo managing to sound absolutely maximal. Dan Sutherland brings the beats, and Noah Bernstein (a former touring member of tUnE-yArDs and current saxophonist for pop-R&B outfit Shy Girls) plays effect-heavy sax. One of my most treasured moments from the past year at Holocene was Grammies’ performance as part of our live film score series, Fin de Cinema; they did a highly imaginative score to a portion of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, including a deconstructed take on Ginuwine’s “Differences” during Leo and Claire’s steamiest scene. Oh the joy! GINA ALTAMURA

Magic Mouth __ www.magicmouth.net

Magic Mouth are a Rhythm & Blues group for the 21st century, incorporating elements of funk, Southern gospel, disco and swampy punk. Lead singer Chanticleer Tru has a voice that will stop you in your tracks, and brings a fierce theatricality to the band’s criminally fun live sets. Having already shared the stage in their young tenure with the likes of The Gossip, SSION, and JD Samson & Men, Magic Mouth’s signature sound — already a welcome anomaly in Portland — is sure to continue dazzling audiences nationwide. GINA ALTAMURA

Like A Villain __ www.facebook.com/likeavillain

Holland Andrews already cut her teeth singing for the irrepressible energy of Portland’s own AU, but her powerful voice has sprouted a project of her own under the moniker Like A Villian. Not afraid to challenge the ear with a little dissonance and demanding drama, it’s as if Sarah Vaughn started hanging out with Diamanda Galas, and then maybe Björk suddenly shows up with a clarinet in hand, employing vocal loops to create tapestries that are by turns divine and jarring. Building an entire universe of her voice, it’s as if we’re getting a sound collage of each person or personality trait that exists in Holland, so what we get is a complex creature, capable of sounding sweet, then menacing, then strange, and then it comes hurtling back from those outer reaches to soothe you again. VAN PHAM

Antecessor __ www.facebook.com/pages/Antecessor/264102590284766

The perfect soundtrackers to your fantasy film or technicolor RPG for the console that hasn’t been invented yet (or maybe the greatest one of all – your imagination?), the two synth wizards of Antecessor have yet to play some bigger shows to my knowledge, but they’re great stage setters for the nouveau New Age set. Electronic fans that are tired of laptop players (not trying to hate) can breathe a sigh of relief to see some more gear heads on the block, and they handle themselves well mining the music that lives somewhere in the territory of inner-mind tunnel visions. Soaring swells and tingle-inducing filter sweeps are present in spades between the twosome who evoke Tangerine Dream, Suzanne Ciani, and Jean-Michel Jarre. VAN PHAM

Vikesh Kapoor __ www.vikeshkapoor.com

Vikesh Kapoor writes story songs in the vein of very early Dylan. They are politically charged, poetry-laden ballads of the working class — a bold thing to attempt in 2013. Yet somehow Vikesh’s talent and absolute care and sensitivity as a lyricist helps him to transcend pure nostalgia. His songs feel timeless, and his gravelly voice is that of an old soul – a young man with an enormous heart and an impassioned desire for justice. It’s a moving experience to sit with his debut record, The Ballad of Willy Robbins, out on Portland’s top-notch folk label Mama Bird Recording Co. Oh, and did I mention that Kapoor is quite possibly the best young fingerpicking guitarist in the city? GINA ALTAMURA

WL __ www.facebook.com/WLLWLL

This trio came rolling out like a steady fog on a gray coast, bearing full bore shoegaze and grungy rock that hearkens to the various facets of some of these genres’ greats — a sidewinding Pacific Northwestern take on the driving grit of Sonic Youth, and the syrupy, lackadaisical trip of Slowdive, and at times, they give the illusion of the largesse of My Bloody Valentine. Fuzzed out guitar and bass suffuse the songs with hazy atmospherics, a perfect bed for Misty Mary’s dreamy vocals. Drummer Stevie Sparks is the engine of the operation, motivating their songs with a forward momentum that makes their songs surprisingly succinct and snappy, despite their starry-eyed quality. Few frills and relative simplicity is this band’s major appeal – solid, sway-ready rock songs with a lived-in warmth (despite the band’s young life) seem dialed, and poised for greater things. VAN PHAM

Sama Dams __ www.sama-dams.com

This exquisite experimental pop group have one of the most compelling live shows in Portland right now. They exhibit a carefully honed pop songcraft wedded with just the right amount of anxiety-addled noise to keep any rock audience firmly at their command. The work of Dave Longstreth is an easy soundalike — easy due to frontman Sam Adams’ frenetic vocalizing — but when I compare them to my beloved Dirty Projectors, it’s with a different shared quality in focus. It’s in Sam’s quieter moments approaching lullabies, his wife Lisa Adams’ sparkly Rhodes sounds… the moments akin to vintage Disney film-music coming from a half-busted turntable, to haunting effect. GINA ALTAMURA

Related Post: Up-And-Coming Seattle Musicians: Cairo’s 2014 Bands To Watch


Written by
Gina Altamura

Gina Altamura is a live music and arts event curator, artist manager and DJ out of Portland, Oregon. She holds a degree in Philosophy from Lewis & Clark College. She currently has an avid scholarly interest in the realm of Jungian depth psychological thought, and is honored to volunteer with a wonderful organization called Oregon Friends of Jung. She has a deep interest in exploring archetypes through the lens of popular culture, as well as helping her generation connect to archetypal thinking via modalities such as artistic practice and tarot.

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