Top 10 songs about Portland

These Rose City serenades comprise the perfect soundtrack for your PDX adventure.

Portlandia, Season 1Portlandia's "Dream of the 90s" sketch quickly became a Portland anthem.

These 10 tunes from world-famous bands, Grammy-winning musicians and lesser-known locals run the gamut from indie rock to jazz, blues and country.

Scott Green/IFC

Ready to add some PDX pride to your playlist? These 10 genre-spanning tracks sing Portland’s praises — literally!

Note: Portland music is so eclectic, we couldn’t find a single source for all the songs on our playlist. We encourage you to Google them, find them in your preferred streaming service or, best yet, purchase the albums!

1. “Portland, Oregon” by Loretta Lynn

This popular Portland anthem combines the talents of country singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn and The White Stripes front man Jack White. The rollicking country-rock duet was ranked one of the top tracks of the 2000s by Pitchfork.

Favorite Lyrics

Well, Portland, Oregon, and sloe gin fizz
If that ain’t love then tell me what is.”

2. “Light Rail Coyote” by Sleater-Kinney

One of the city’s most famous bands, punk rock trio Sleater-Kinney penned this love letter to their adopted hometown back in 2002. The title is inspired by the true story of a coyote that, as the song says, “crosse[d] the trails and hop[ped] on the light rail MAX.”

Favorite Lyrics

And if you wanna be a friend of mine
Cross the river to the east side.”

3. “City of Roses” by Esperanza Spalding

The first jazz musician in history to win a Grammy for Best New Artist, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding grew up in Northeast Portland and studied music at Portland State University. Her loving ode to her hometown is peppered with insider references and praises of all things Portland — even the weather! (“Our rain is the paint that makes the land lush and the folks unique.”)

Favorite Lyrics

City parks, wild berries and old bridges
Rolling river bringing goods to and from the sea
A mountain hooded in snow silently watching over me
Anywhere I go, these roots are with me.”
 

4. “Rose City” by Viva Voce

This energetic tribute by Portland indie rockers Viva Voce is truly local — the riff-heavy tune was written and recorded in the Northeast Portland backyard studio of the band’s founders, husband-and-wife duo Ken and Anita Robinson.

Favorite Lyrics

I want to be back in Rose City
I want to be in the town I love.”

5. “Portland Town” by Mary Flower

Known for her signature blend of folk and acoustic blues, American roots musician Mary Flower moved to Portland more than a decade ago — and judging from the lyrics to this ragtime tribute, she’s here to stay, no matter the weather!

Favorite Lyrics

It might freeze or it might get hotter
But I’m going to stay come hell or high water
All that rain is going to make you strong
So you can sing and dance all night long
In Portland town.”

6. “Rose City” by Rose City Project

“Rose City” is the first track on the album Rose City by the artist Rose City Project. If that’s not enough Portland love for you, consider the lyrics: “Rose City, make my home in Portland/A city by any other name just wouldn’t be as sweet.”

Favorite Lyrics

From the streets of New York City
To the hills of Hollywood
There is one place I return to
It’s got a mountain in the hood.”

7. “Paul’s Song” by M. Ward

Best known as Zooey Deschanel’s partner in sunshine pop duo She & Him, indie crooner M. Ward has called PDX home since at least 2000 — so it’s fitting that he would write our city’s version of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” chronicling the heartbreak of one former Portlander.

Favorite Lyrics

Well, every town is all the same
When you’ve left your heart in the Portland rain.”

8. “Rose Parade” by Elliott Smith

No list of Portland melodies would be complete without a mention of singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, whose meteoric career was built on soulful lyrics rich with Stumptown references. Intrigued? Explore this map of Elliott Smith’s Portland.

Favorite Lyrics

Won’t you follow me down to the Rose Parade?”

9. “The Portland Water” by Michael Hurley

Folk singer Michael Hurley made his name in the Greenwich Village music scene of the 1960s, but his affection for the Pacific Northwest shines through in this surprisingly cheerful number about our city’s famed rain.

Favorite Lyrics

Oh, they call up to Portland on the public telephone
They say it sure is raining here in the state of Oregon.”

10. “The Dream of the 90s is Alive in Portland” by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen

Launching a thousand Portland stereotypes (and one Emmy-winning comedy show), this satirical song lampooning local culture debuted on the pilot of IFC’s Portlandia. Just how impactful was this video? The phrases “Portland is a city where young people go to retire” and “In Portland you can put a bird on something and call it art” both come from this sketch!

Favorite Lyrics

In Portland it’s almost like cars don’t exist, right?
People ride bikes or double-decker bikes.
They ride unicycles. They ride the tram. They ride skateboards!”

 


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