WITH 90.1 FM

Jerad Walker

The talented multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul formed the songwriting vehicle Black Belt Eagle Scout in 2018 and released two impressive albums in rapid succession. The rock band was founded in Portland, where Paul has spent most of her adult life as a musician. But when the pandemic hit, the Indigenous artist decided to move closer to family in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community northwest of Seattle. It was something she'd always planned to do, but the tumultuous year sped up her timeline considerably.

Portland, Ore. is home to a small but vibrant hip-hop community that's received some buzz in recent years. But like many local music scenes, it was devastated by the fallout of the pandemic and rocked by social justice protests that swept across the country last year. Portland was at the center of those protests and, in many ways, so were its hip-hop artists. As live music comes back to the city, a new generation of resilient young artists — inspired in part by activism — are leading the way.

Kathy Foster is a pillar of the Portland music scene. She rose to prominence as the bassist for The Thermals, a now-defunct band. In recent years, she's switched to playing the drums in the punk group Hurry Up. In addition to her work as a musician, Foster is also a radio and live DJ in the Rose City.

In this special guest playlist created for Oregon Public Broadcasting, her eclectic taste as a curator is on full display. While the selections may be sonically broad, Foster highlights the songs that got her through the pandemic. After a brutal year, she just wants us to dance.

In the wake of the pandemic, all corners of Oregon's music scene ground to a halt. From singer-songwriters in the rural east, to hip-hop artists living in the bustling city of Portland, musicians stopped performing in public overnight. A year later, the Pacific Northwest's musicians are anxiously awaiting the reopening of music venues and the return to live gigs. With debuts and album releases in sight, here are 11 emerging artists hinting at the rebirth of Oregon's music industry.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple Music playlists at the bottom of the page.


The forested amphitheater at Pickathon is a tailor-made conduit for an intimate songwriter like Andy Shauf.

opbmusic / YouTube

On the final day of Pickathon last summer, Swedish rock band

Harrison Smith is at the forefront of a new generation of young rock musicians who've never known anything other than limitless possibilities. Smith's project, Turtlenecked, has been steadily fulfilling that potential since 2015. Although he often performs as a drummer, Smith plays every instrument in the band and largely produces and writes his own material, which has grown leaps and bounds in just a few years.

In person, folk musician Haley Heynderickx is shy and soft-spoken. She gets what she calls "sweaty impostor syndrome" when asked to talk about her music. But in performance, the Portland-based artist has the confidence to lay herself bare. Two years ago, she released a promising four-song collection called Fish Eyes that was so unguarded, it was almost uncomfortable to listen to.