Great musicians come from all areas, but as our name is LA Music Blog, we’d like to take some time to focus on our home city and the talent that comes from within. Below I’ve listed some — just some — of the best local bands active in 2012. In no particular order, check out these hometown heroes, some big, most up-and-coming, but all inspiring in their own right.
Appropriate start, no? Though the new album isn’t out until January, I’m taking the “Breakers” early release as my excuse to include them in this list. Gorilla Manor made huge waves for the local indie rockers in 2010 with their dreamy vocals and damn-catchy tunes (“Sun Hands” inspiring percussion breakdowns in particular can get almost anyone moving). The beauty of Hummingbird, previewed through “Breakers,” is the same unique vocal harmonies as Gorilla Manor, though with a slightly more somber coating complementing the band’s ever-bright guitar riffs. Hummingbird is out on January 29th, and Local Natives is celebrating with not one, but TWO hometown tour kick-off shows at El Rey and the Fonda Theatre.
When my 19-year-old brother comes up to me and tells me I “have to hear something,” I usually know to expect hip hop. He knows I’d prefer to listen to the lyricless music of Godspeed… over rap, but our shared love for Grieves and Atmosphere keeps the door open to him. So with my not-so-kid brother’s persistent encouragement, I gave it a listen, and to his credit, he was absolutely right. The Compton-born storyteller pleasantly surprised me.
Pushing past “Backseat Freestyle” and onto deeper subject matter, including my favorite track (so far) “Real” featuring Anna Wise, Lamar speaks to meaningful self-love and sincerity. good kid m.A.A.d. city is a testament to Lamar’s talent, and the weight of Dr. Dre’s hand in the mix certainly contributed to the creation of this great album that has me thinking the next suggestion my brother makes will definitely make it to the top of my playlist.
The tremendously talented Alex Brown Church fronts local band Sea Wolf who just released their third full-length album, Old World Romance. Beautiful guitar picking pulls listeners into the album’s opening track, “Old Friend,” and the same amorous sentiment that made me fall in love with the band via their 2007 track “The Garden That You Planted” remains constant throughout the new release. More upbeat than the debut EP, Get To The River Before It Runs Too Low, but much like the succeeding releases, Old World Romance is consistent with Church’s established sound without feeling repetitive.
I’ve raved about PAPA in LAmb’s 14th podcast, and I’ll keep raving until they put out anything that’s less than amazing. Like Local Natives, they just released a single, “Put Me To Work,” this year, but that single has me so pumped for a potential new album that it’s more than enough for the time being. Despite all of the great full albums I’ve heard this year, this single song still blows past most competition. Explosive keys, drums, and Darren Weiss’ soulful vocals are equally showcased in their previous EP, A Good Woman Is Hard to Find, and PAPA has not put out a single track that couldn’t be a hit on the radio. Daniel Presant’s guitar, Weiss’ drums, and the addition of supporting keys and bass create a full sound that would make a perfect soundtrack for any good dance party.
Hometown indie darlings Milo Greene blew me away at El Rey Theatre last month, closing their tour at home in continued support of their self-titled album. The quintet has a steadily growing fan base with consistently enjoyable performances and a solid album that fluctuates between forlorn lyrics and solely instrumental tracks. The record is an ethereal expression of yearning, love, and loss. Have I ever mentioned my love for bands that alternate lead male/female vocals? That easily puts Milo Greene in my Top 10 bands of the year.
Hey Los Angeles fans of Wild Flag, did you know we have our own lady-led true punk group, Deap Vally? A duo-really, their Facebook “About” section pretty much says it all: “Bad. Ass.” The local knitting — yes knitting — enthusiasts have been tearing up stages all across Europe, but their LA origins make me proud to share their zip code. The ladies bleed rock and roll and put out the kind of music that has lead singer Lindsey Troy writhing on stage while the other half of Deap Vally, Julie Edwards, jams on drums and sings like, well, a bad ass. They released their EP, Gonna Make My Own Money, on bright pink 7-inch vinyl, and whether it be the skintight stagewear, the talented musicianship, or the display of an all-too-rare and sincere throwback to the Runaways, the attention is well-deserved. These girls are my heroes.
Staying in the vein of true rock and roll, let’s dig into some good-natured punk. LA-based band FIDLAR released their latest EP, Shit We Recorded In Our Bedrooms, the best way any band could: for free. Previous to that, they released Don’t Try, another EP, and let’s not forget their single, “Cheap Beer” — yes, this is all within 2012. Recently signed to Mom + Pop, the quartet is comprised of self-admitted “slackers at heart,” but they have a growing fanbase and a loyal local following that loves to drink beer and join in on the mosh pit that follows the band wherever they go. The music is straight-forward, focusing on girls, drinking, and drugs — no complex layers of meaning or over-analyzed lyrics here. Hence the group’s moniker, “Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk.” FIDLAR reflects true punk, and the band can be just as fun to watch in a garage as they were on the huge stage of the Wiltern.
I was pretty late in learning about Lord Huron, but it only took one view of the video for “Time To Run” from the album Lonesome Dreams, and I was hooked. The new album, also in my Top 10 for 2012, is folk rock at its best. The kind that can be appreciated for fun, well-thought-out story lines and lyrics, but equally enjoyed for the instrumental contribution. With resounding vocals, multiple guitars with heavy reverb, and the perfected art of timing (plus the addition of a little flute), each song is a dream-like journey that is powerful enough to calm a Los Angeles driver in rush hour traffic.
The aforementioned story lines recount a journey seeking a lost companionship worth fighting for and the kind of romantic devotion best showcased in “She Lit A Fire” — “I’ve been through the desert and I’ve been across the sea, I’ve been walking through the mountains, I wandered through the trees, for her.” The additional lyrical content in the opening track, “Ends of the Earth,” foreshadows the constant urge to move throughout the rest of the album.
Each song boasts great talent and careful progression with old-soul rhythm, and the album closes with “The Stranger, concluding the search in the ultimate resolution that the person found may not have been the person sought after: “Of all the strangers, you’re the strangest that I see.” The tragic ending, mixed with Andrew Bird-like whistling, wraps the album up with the heart-rending beauty that it opened with.
I don’t know how, but Fear Fun quickly creeped into my Top 25 most played playlist, and when evaluating my top albums to submit for LA Music Blog’s Top 50 Albums of 2012 list, I realized it was at the very top of my list.
Joshua Tillman made his way out from behind the drums in Fleet Foxes to, once again, pursue self-led projects. Father John Misty is everything I hoped Fleet Foxes would be, with familiar resonance and Tillman’s nostalgic voice. The opening track,”Fun Times Babylon,” says it all: “Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”
Tillman earns extra points in my book by embracing LA throughout the album, and the act reinforces his place in this list. Fear Fun is a lighthearted collection of piano- and guitar-led stories that takes a slight detour with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (another hometown shout out), a track that holds fewer acoustics and has the most “produced” sound, departing momentarily from the purity of its surrounding tracks.
Closing with Divine Fits, this local super trio — comprised of Britt Daniel of Spoon, Wolf Parade‘s Dan Boeckner, and New Bomb Turks‘ Sam Brown — released their new album, A Thing Called Divine Fits, in August. The album rings with the signature vocals we’ve come to love from Daniel’s six previous full-length albums, plus alternate lead singing from Boeckner — equally known for his 2005 Apologies to the Queen and 2010′s Expo 86. The new album isn’t greater than any member’s previous work, but it is, however, a nice continuation of each singer’s writing with the experience of a funkier instrumental backdrop.
So we’ve explored local indie, hip-hop, alternative, rock and roll, punk, and brought it back to some more indie. Think I’ve missed one? Maybe a few? I’m sure I have, so why not comment below and enlighten me on some new tunes I may not have addressed or heard yet? We love our readers, and know you’ve got great taste in music too. Why else would you be here?