This blog hasn’t given local acts nearly enough shine over the past 12 months, but here’s some records from Angeleno bands that I enjoyed. If you’re looking for other, probably more informed local lists, I highly recommend checking out You Set the Scene, Rock Insider, and Surfing on Steam’s.
10. Sea Wolf-Leaves in the River
At times, Leaves In the River reads a little predictably quirky, but Alex Church’s pop heart salvages this from being the effort of another accordian-toting, maritime metaphor-using copycat. The sound might not be the most original (I can’t wait for Colin Meloy’s “Shark N—s (Biters)” skit on the next Decemberists record), but when Church connects, as like on Starbucks-gypsy stomp of “Winter Windows” or Indie 103.1 staple, “You’re a Wolf,” it’s almost impossible to resist.
9. Le Switch-Hello Today
As Duke has repeatedly pointed out, Aaron Kyle’s brand of tipsy saloon-rock grows on you like a fungus. At first, you’re kind of like, ‘hey a fungus, maybe I should get rid of that.’ Then you realize that Aaron’s a pretty big dude and maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to go to the doctor. And the next thing you know, you’re including him on your “Best Of” lists and not even because you’re trying to avoid a brawl, (therein violating your personal rule about never feuding with bands named after weapons), but more importantly, because of the fact that Kyle is a deceptively proficient songwriter.
8. The Prix-The Prix EP/St. Domino
There was a week in June when I played nothing but Dungen’s Tio Bitar and The Prix’s eponymous debut EP. Their psychedelic, Saturday escapism seemed to meld perfectly with the blue afternoons and hazy sunsets of the early summer. They aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel, they’re just trying to revive that familiar, insanely catchy strain of 60’s guitar pop native to Los Angeles. And they succeed.
No Age has arguably as much potential as anyone on this list. Their debut LP/singles collection, Weirdo Rippers has moments where you believe the hype and think that these guys have a chance to evolve a hybrid of The Ramones and Guided By Voices. But too often, they let their lo-fi/punk roots become an excuse for sloppiness. Yet Weirdo Rippers no doubt leaves you with the impression that if No Age can find a way to mix their powerful, spastic, punk with a still-developing knack for songcraft, they can be great.
Suffused with elegiac horns and Paul Larson’s impressive vocal capabilities, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished has a sonic depth and richness that makes it more than just the sad white guy schtick you’d expect to see on in a dorm room iTunes playlist labeled “Just Been Dumped.” Though this is technically their debut, the members of The Minor Canon are veterans of the Silverlake scene and it shows throughout, with Larson’s lyrical maturity and meticulous, layered arrangements.
5. Earlimart-Mentor Tormentor
This probably didn’t receive as much attention as it deserved because these guys have made a half dozen records before and you kind of know what you’re getting at this point. (Fans of Grandaddy, Elliot Smith, you’ll probably enjoy this). All in all, it’s another very solid effort from one of the most solid bands to emerge from Los Angeles in the decade.
4. Blu and Exile-Below the Heavens
It’s a shame how long its taken me to even mention this record, considering Blu’s one of the best non-Stones Throw rappers to emerge in the post-Jurassic 5 LA underground. Below the Heavens might not be on the level of J5’s self-titled debut, but it’s certainly a promising start. Blu’s flow is fierce, with a lyrical content more street-wise than the average subterranean rapper yet smarter than your average hustler-turned-rapper.
3. The Broken West-I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
I was pretty underwhelmed when caught the Broken West at their Spaceland residency earlier this year. I liked their Merge released debut, I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On, well-enough, but it never felt like much more than pleasant Big-Star/New Pornographers knockoff. The sort of a record you’d listen to for about a week and promptly discard when something better came along. But when I caught The Broken West a little while ago at the Echo, they were a completely different band, road-tested and infinitely tighter than in the spring. Live, the songs from I Can’t Go On sounded re-invented and when I went back to the record, it was much better than I remembered. If their next album can match the energy of their live sound, these guys are a lock to be the next big band to break out of LA.
2. The Parson Redheads-King Giraffe
The Parson Redheads make no secret about trying to build upon Los Angeles’ laid-back legacy, relentlessly channeling the spirit of the Byrds, CSNY, and Gram Parsons. Their album chugs along so smoothly that its show-stopper, “Full Moon,” (a centerpiece of the band’s dynamic live show) creeps up on you with its graveyard lyrics, serpentine Zombies keyboards, and twisting miasma of psychedelic guitars. Dropping their optimism for a moment, Way and his sister Erin, the band’s keyboardist, conspire murderously and the band finally let loose, unleashing a primal squall of feedback that leads you to believe that a lot more great things are in store for these guys.
1. The Deadly Syndrome-The Ortolan
The Ortolan is a very good record, maybe the best of the recent batch of bands that have broken out of Silverlake in the last few years. Most surprising is The Deadly Syndrome’s inherent knack for transmitting the wild-eyed schizophrenia of their notoriously frenetic stage show to the studio, a difficult task for veteran bands, let alone a bunch of former film school kids who came out of virtually nowhere to become one of the Eastside’s biggest bands in just months.
“I Hope I Become a Ghost” rides out on a flying dust cloud of mad monk piano keys and caveman drums. “The Ship that Shot Itself” is buoyed by an ethereal accordion line that breathes and swells, fleshing out the bare-bones folk guitar line. “Emily Paints” starts out like lukewarm Hot Hot Heat but resurrects itself mid-song like a forest full of dead trees struck by lightning, burning in an orange crush-colored haze of guitars. Ultimately, it’s these superficially benign instrumental patches that reveal exactly why Steve Aoki was wise to dangle a record deal in front of them approximately 16 minutes after they formed (proving once again that no one is capable of resisting the fried rice at Benihana).