Plagues, protests, politics ... 2020 was a trip.

If last year’s version of you could dream up something stressful (anything really), it likely happened during the past 12 months. Sadly, we probably haven’t helped things by announcing the end of the 24/7 opbmusic channel, which goes into effect on Dec. 11. But if there was one truly positive development during this awful year, it was the music we played throughout all of it. Thank goodness for that.

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We asked opbmusic staff to compile their favorite songs released by Oregon-based musicians in 2020. These are just a few of the incredible tracks that kept us going during this strange period in time.


Sunbathe - " Somewhere In Between”

It’s hard to think of a song title that speaks more to the current moment than “Somewhere In Between”. From the opening tremolo guitar to the delayed chorus’ echoey, swirling harmonies, Sunbathe create a sense of distance and detachment that manages to inadvertently hold a mirror up to living through 2020. Throughout, the propulsive baseline and hints of optimism drive toward something better. Finding a semblance of peace and happiness in uncertainty never sounded so good. — Nate Sjol


Donte Thomas – “SAGE”

Often stuffed with demos and b-sides that didn’t make the final cut, deluxe reissues of records can be a mixed bag. The expanded version of Donte Thomas’ already excellent 2019 album “COLORS” does not suffer from this problem. The collection included this infectious bonus track that is clearly not filler. With its distinct keys and incredibly catchy vocals, “SAGE” might just be the best of the bunch. — Jerad Walker


MAITA – “Someone’s Lost Their Goddamn Wallet”

“Someone’s Lost Their Goddamn Wallet” is a perfect example of everything to love about MAITA. The song’s simple production allows for Maria Maita-Keppeler’s melody to truly shine through, as her rapid-fire chorus vocals combine with syncopated drums to keep the song pushing and pulsing forward. But the song’s major key sound, upbeat tempo, and almost stream-of-consciousness lyrics don’t quite prepare you for the refrain “we’re all goners now,” which makes for an unintentional yet gloomily apt lyric in 2020. — Matthew Casebeer


Dave Depper – “Munich Six”

“Munich Six” is the first track released from Dave Depper’s forthcoming album “Europa” which was recorded during a 3-week stretch while on tour with his band Death Cab for Cutie. It’s a beautiful and spare loop-based guitar improvisation where new melodies repeat and build, creating a soundtrack of hope and beauty between rising chords and misty reverb. Though it predates COVID-19, “Europa” holds the promise of discovered meaning and a new day. — JT Griffith


STRFKR – “Dear Stranger”

This long-running psych-pop outfit changed things up dramatically in 2020. In addition to putting out an instrumental ambient album, STRFKR released a low-fi inspired record called “Future Past Life” that thumbed its nose at their well-established dance party credentials. With its wandering synths, dark lyrics, and vintage backbeat, “Dear Stranger” proved that even wallflowers can be fun. — Jerad Walker


Isabeau Waia’u Walker – “Woman”

On the opening track to her EP “Better Metric”, Isabeau Waia’u Walker sets an emotional tone for the listener with a repeated question: How many years to become this woman? Walker seems centered on a fulcrum, balancing self and societal expectations, desperately seeking an answer that she knows may not exist. The sparse stringed orchestration matches the lyrics in a kind of slow dance, albeit on a precipice, assured but wide open and uncovered. Full of real uncertainty and vulnerability, Woman encompasses a universal emotion, and it’s good to know we’re not alone with the feeling. — Chris Spicer


RAC (feat. Phil Good) – “Stuck On You”

With this collaboration, Portland-based producer and songwriter RAC teamed up with fellow Oregonian Phil Good. The result is a downtempo bop with a simple, yet infectious hook that will surely have you singing along. This isn’t the only track the two artists teamed up on this year. RAC mixed Phil Good’s “Do You Ever?”, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical. — Mike Baden


Scott The Hoople – “Nothing Is Better Than Anything (From You)”

Sometimes you want to hear beautifully layered, lushly produced music with deep, thought-provoking lyrics; sometimes you need the opposite of that — low-fi, furious, garage rock to scream along with as a stress reliever. Scott The Hoople (Scott McCaughey of The Minus Five, The Baseball Project), gives us the latter with the title track from his “Anything Is Better Than YOU” EP. Released on June’s fee-waiving Bandcamp Friday, the song is a two-minute profanity-laced, invective-fueled blast aimed at the outgoing president. Get this in your ears now and remember to keep it in reserve for next year when COVID doesn’t give you an excuse to avoid family gatherings.— Francis Storr


Mo Troper – “Jas From Australia”

Mo Troper threw everything (and the kitchen sink) at this 2-minute long power-pop ballad from his latest record “Natural Beauty.” But the cacophony of banjos, horns, keys, strings and guitars never distracts from the song’s heartening lyrical tale of long-distance teenage love. — Jerad Walker


Mic Capes - “Urgency”

With its creaky, pendulating piano and the sheer exertion of its chorus, Mic Capes’ “Urgency” is a work song of 2020 stakes. Released back in April, the Portland MC’s single transcends a simple declaration that his grind goes on. It’s a churning testament to mandatory momentum, fed by personal history, anxiety, and devotion. — Chance Solem-Pfeifer


Spoon Benders – “Nation”

“Nation” comes from the Portland band’s debut album “Dura Mater”. It’s a heavy track with a punk rhythm designed to get your head shaking before garage metal and surf rock influences take over and propel things recklessly forward. — Jonny Polivka


Laura Veirs – “Burn Too Bright”

Written about the late Cottage Grove-based producer and musician Richard Swift, ‘Burn Too Bright’ comes from songwriter Laura Veirs’ newest record ‘My Echo’. It’s a high-energy recording with delicious hooks that make it a perfect celebration of Swift’s life. — Arthur C. Lee


The Parson Red Heads – “Coming Along”

On this track from their November release, Lifetime of Comedy, The Parson Red Heads present a rich celebration of life. “Coming Along” begins simply with hovering keyboard tones and an easy driving drum beat, but it’s soon filled in with arpeggiating guitars and a steady, marching bass. With the comforting words, “I will not leave you in my shadow”, the track builds and peaks into a series of interwoven guitar solos, providing listeners with a deeply cathartic release. - Max Robinson


Aesop Rock – “The Gates”

Although he broke out of the NYC underground hip-hop scene in the late 90s, Aesop Rock has been a low-key Oregonian for a few album cycles now. Known for his dense, rapid-fire delivery, the rapper leans into his strengths on “The Gates”. It’s an impressive performance buoyed by a subtle but highly effective video game inspired arrangement (the musician is no stranger to gaming). — Jerad Walker


Typhoon - “Welcome To The Endgame”

Portland-based collective Typhoon’s standalone single “Welcome To The Endgame” is a sweeping, ethereal meditation on the moment, encompassing the grief and hope of a city that often found itself at the center of national scrutiny in 2020. Its lyrics evoke a different interpretation upon each listen, for each listener, reflecting on both the beautiful and horrific scenes of our year. It’s a carefully nuanced and expansive song that finds us on the brink and gently carries us to the other side. — Emily Reiling


Other Lives – “Lost Day”

2020 was an intensely personal listening experience for many, as music gave a collective voice to those who don’t have a megaphone. “Lost Day” is the song that spoke to me. It’s chilling fullness of sound and the sincerity in songwriter Jesse Tabish’s lyrics and voice create forge a composition that will resonate well past this year and hopefully help spiritually center us all for whatever lies ahead. — Ray Gill, Jr.