Sun Rai- June 22nd, 2013

There's something strangely likeable about Sun Rai's music. His infectiously poppy riffs could almost be placed in the same genre of lamer, more aggravating artists like Jason Mraz or Maroon 5, but his musicianship and the catchiness of his songs keep me interested. Once the frontman for the popular Australian band Thirsty Merc, Sun Rai has now broken off to pursue a solo career in Los Angeles. His voice and elegant piano skills make him almost sound like Adam Levine's more mature Australian cousin. One of his signature moves is playing on two keyboards at once, somehow seeing through his mop of bramble-bushy hair. Even if Rai's style of music has its cheesy, pop-infused moments, he's undeniably talented and will get you dancing, or at least inspire a strong head bob.

The Neighborhood- July 12th, 2013

Just in case you've been wondering who does that song on KNRK that's like, "It's too co-o-o-o-old for you here, so let me ho-o-o-o-o-old both your hands in the holes of my sweater," they're called the Neighbourhood, and they show promise. Their bittersweet, hollowed-out-log sound pairs perfectly with rain and pale skin. Formed in California two years ago, the Neighbourhood's first album I Love You has hit the ground running with just the right amounts of poppy riffs and 
distorted effects for angsty folks to jump on board. Though that radio hit, "Sweater Weather," is probably the best song on the album, the time is ripe to see them before they get too big for their sweaters. 

Big Freedia- July 19th, 2013

If you're in the mood for a string quartet and mild head bobbing, I'd recommend you NOT see Big Freedia. Freedia is the gender-straddling purveyor of the popular New Orleans booty-thrusting dance music aptly named "bounce," not for the faint of heart or light of rear. A repetitious and fast off-shoot of hiphop, bounce has been captivating the booties of New Orleans with its Mardi Gras-style chants since the '91 hit "Where Dey At" by MC T. Tucker. Now the current standard-bearer of bounce, Big Freedia brings color, class, and style to a genre most associated with ogling bouncing women. I wouldn't recommend listening to Freedia while studying for an exam or reading the Quran, but she and her back-up dancers will undoubtedly wow you, especially if you missed her opening for the Postal Service at the Rose Garden. (I know, WTF?) 

The Believers- July 29th, 2013

There's a little something for everyone in Donna the Buffalo's music; from the stoned Phish fanatic, to the Cajun Zydeco lover, to the little kid at concerts who always needs to dance. Unlike your usual alt-country band, Donna and "the Herd" infuse zydeco and reggae into their plucky sound with smooth finesse. Starting and headlining a roots music festival in Upstate New York for the past 20-plus years, Donna the Buffalo have produced nine albums and played more than their fair share of shows all over the US. With accordion waltzes and bluegrassy banjo, Donna is a nice convergence of cohesive instrumentation, spontaneous jams, and melodic, warm vocals. 

Balmorhea- August 8th, 2013

Balmorhea's recent album Stranger might confuse its listeners into thinking that Broken Social Scene got lost somewhere in Texas, lost their voices, and accidentally put out an album. Heavy with loops, fades, and drama, Balmorhea leaves that distant, bittersweet aftertaste in your mouth that so defines this meandering, instrumental journey genre. With six members, ranging from banjo to cello to violin, Balmorhea's unique instrumentation and melodies sustain attention-captivating songs without the need for vocals. Their performance won't inspire any mosh pits, but will certainly get you excited about music again.

Gold Fields, Rush Midnight- September 4th, 2013

One thing Rush Midnight and Gold Fields have in common is a knack for a smooth, synthy, pop sound that will make your Lee dungarees wiggle and bounce. Though Gold Fields only recently put out their debut album, this Australian quintet sounds like they've been the soundtrack to more than a few indie movie montage scenes. Bringing the dancey kick of Daft Punk to sensual chord progressions, Gold Fields overlays strings and haunting melodies onto straightforward pop roots. Gold Fields pairs well with Rush Midnight, an ambient, electronically based artist from Brooklyn. One could argue Russ Manning got his stage name after his friends said his name five times fast, but his music demonstrates real creativity. Rush Midnight inventively combines his vocals with such a full-bodied sound that the absence of a band goes without notice.

Mariachi El Bronx- September 7th, 2013

Though the roots of the Bronx's alter ego Mariachi el Bronx are in alt-punk, their minor-key mariachi music is legit, even if they still look like a rock band accidentally given a mariachi band's ticket in a hilarious dry cleaner mix-up. Mariachi el Bronx takes the fun, upbeat accordion stylings of mariachi music, and swirls it together with punkish beats and riffs, making for a highly unique, well-executed sound. Tiburones is a newer outfit; consisting of Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba and Nick Delffs of Death Songs, their three-piece band will captivate you with its lively tempo and beautiful harmonies. 

P.O.S., Shad, The Chicharones- September 7th, 2013

Shad may be Canadian, but he ain't no puss. This Kenyan-born emcee's flow is smooth, while his DJ sets the tone for a sound similar in thoughtful tonality to Atmosphere and A Tribe Called Quest. What elevates his lyrics from the usual wealth-centric raps is his unabashed willingness to discuss consumerist culture, personal anxiety, and even genocide in Rwanda. Meanwhile, P.O.S (not to be confused with '90s band/nightmare P.O.D.) hails from Minneapolis, nexus of America's underground hiphop scene. P.O.S is the king of side projects, fronting to numerous punk-rock bands and playing in Building Better Bombs, and co-founding indie hiphop collective Doomtree. P.O.S' insightful lyrics and dynamic sound make him a force to be reckoned with. What better cherry on the hiphop sundae the Chicharones, a Portland hiphop duo, known for lively shows and a unique mix of hiphop, rock, and funk.

The Doobie Brothers- September 6th, 2013

Whether it was you and your brother singing along to "What a Fool Believes" in the car, or hearing "Black Water" at your high school graduation, chances are, the Doobie Brothers are connected to your past. Since the '70s, the Doobs have added on seasoned musicians that have played with everybody from Steely of Dan to Tower of Power. Their most recent album, World Gone Crazy, recalls their classic rock/country roots, but with far more experimentation with salsa, folk, and varied instruments, all encompassed in well-written songs. You have almost certainly not heard it. Still, seeing the Doobs at the Zoo will offer a heaping helping of those sweet, sweet melodies that have been a part of your life, whether you wanted them to be or not. (Doobies Fun Fact™! Former guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is now a missile defense consultant.) 

Barra Brown- September 10th, 2013

There are seemingly infinite amounts of up-and-coming musicians in Portland, but it's very rare to find a universally talented musician with such promise. Barra Brown and his quintet stand more of a chance for longevity than the average indie rocker or electronic artist that we're seeing pop up with increasing frequency. It's also highly unusual to find new jazz artists, let alone ones producing a truly unique sound. Brown has a contemporary flair, with finely tuned improvised jazz skills, and a tight set that will surely captivate a growing audience. "Songs for a Young Heart" includes Cake-style rocking trumpet parts, with diverse tempos and tight instrumentation. There aren't many drummers/composers/flautists flooding the music scene right now, and this one you certainly shouldn't miss.

Dizzy Wright- September 17th, 2013

If you're sick of Bone Thugz-N-Harmony and have tired of your Kendrick Lamar albums, then it might be time to start listening to Dizzy Wright. Based out of Las Vegas, Wright has been rapping since he was eight, when his mom, a concert promoter, wrote rhymes for him. Wright's words present a unique approach to rap, touching on everything from spiritual philosophy to his early years in Flint, Michigan to balancing all of the obstacles in his life. Though showing roots in early '90s hiphop, his music pursues an ethereal, contemplative sound that current hiphop has been embracing. Wright's latest mixtape, The Golden Age, represents his sound and philosophy well: jazz-inspired songs, varied tempos, and messages revolving around his eternal quest for peace. 

Ural Thomas and the Pain- September 24th, 2013

In the style of Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, and all of the luscious fruits that fall from the Daptone tree, Ural Thomas is ready to regale you with a new wave of old-school soul. A native (dare I say it) Portlandian, Thomas grew up singing doo-wop on street corners, later opening for such soul staples as Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder. Through a series of unfortunate events, Thomas never attained the worldwide fame that his talent could have easily earned him. Luckily for us, this Portland gem is coming out of the woodwork, starting to play frequent shows with his excellent new band, the Pain. Thomas retains the same sense of power he's always had, offering a gospel-and-fire performance that only a son of a minister and arbiter of soul could. 

Big Black Delta- September 25th, 2013

A side project from Mellowdrone's vocalist/bassist Jonathan Bates, Big Black Delta pursues the popular synth-indie sound everyone's jiving on these days, but with a little more flair and charisma. Though Bates is on a solo mission, he still manages to collaborate with other LA electro-suppliers like M83 and Alessandro Cortini of Nine Inch Nails. Through a haunting electronic veil, Bates' voice day-drinks with David Byrne and tangos with Ian Curtis by night. His songs range from melancholy with Molly Ringwald (who's singing at the Newmark this week) to partying with HBO's Girls. It seems as though Big Black Delta is music made by and for the synth-minded Generation Y: danceable, dark, and containing more sedimentary layers than what meets the ear.

Cool Nutz- October 5th, 2013

Rapper, manager, and host of the Northwest Breakout show (the only mainstream radio hiphop show in town), Cool Nutz has been active in Portland’s hiphop scene since 1992. His sound is much like the regional underground hiphop artists he plays on his Sunday night show, full of innovative splicing and sampling, and always the freshest of beats. He’ll be opening for Suga Free and DJ Quik, who is just beginning to play again after a six-year hiatus from his Platinum career. Between his hiphop show, hosting Portland’s only hiphop festival, managing his own record label, and recording and playing shows, Cool Nutz is the breath of fresh, funky air keeping Portland’s rap flame alive. 

Latyrx- November 14th, 2013

Given that Latyrx consists of Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker, it's no wonder their albums feel like a long journey through your subconscious set to a wonky beat. The Second Album has finally arrived, 16 years after their first, but still embodies their signature experimental hip-hop, with unusual amounts of song structure and melody. These two poets joined forces in the Bay Area rap scene in the mid-'90s, and have since mostly played odd festivals and opened for funk outfits like Galactic. Those that enjoy Bay Area hiphop like Zion I and the abstract nature of Sage Francis' fast-paced flow will surely cream their low-hanging jeans over Latyrx.