By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Various Artists | Perfect as Cats: A Tribute to the Cure | Manimal Vinyl
This collection by the white-hot Manimal Vinyl imprint has two things going against it from the start. First, it’s a tribute album. Second, it honors a band whose work is so ingrained in the brains of a generation that any misstep becomes magnified. And yet, and yet, somehow the double-CD Perfect as Cats manages to capture a uniquely Los Angeleno musical moment (even if the featured artists come from many points on the globe) by celebrating the work of Robert Smith and the Cure. It does this by minimizing the dated sounds and recording techniques that situated the original releases in 1980s England (in essence, squeezing out the overtly synthetic touches) and transforming the Cure’s catchy, optimistic melodies and love songs into deep, psychedelic excursions and electro-acoustic diversions. Over 33 songs, bands as diverse as England’s Bats for Lashes and Jesu, Copenhagen’s Katrine Ottosen (a nice version of “Love Cats”), and Atlanta’s Kaki King (a highlight, “Head in the Door”) celebrate melancholy love. The majority of the 33, though, are from Southern California, and dictate the direction. Indian Jewelry turns “The Walk” into a staticky, defeated tragedy. Rainbow Arabia’s version of “Six Different Ways” somehow stays true to the letter of Smith’s arrangement but makes it totally brand new. Xu Xu Fang’s “Fascination Street,” which opens the collection, sets the tone: The song’s always been about that wobbly bassline, and XXF isolates it, feasts on it, wallows in it. It’s hard to succeed on tribute albums, for sure. Most of them suck. But this one not only doesn’t suck, it harnesses Smith’s heavenly/melancholy songs to create new surprises.
Abe Vigoda | Skeleton | PPM Records
Even if New Age’s sudden rise threatened to make the Smell scene last year’s news, Abe Vigoda’s lower-profile triumph affirmed what the rest of us already knew: L.A.’s in no danger of running out of good ideas, and they’re still wafting out of a dirty old alley in the Historic Core. Technically, Abe Vigoda’s young cadre hail from Chino, but the quartet has long been associated with downtown. Skeleton is their third album, and the timing for their “tropical punk” to come to fruition couldn’t be better. Just as East Coast preppy-pants Vampire Weekend was giving us lessons in comma (and product) placement over artfully ripped Afro-rock, Abe V. appeared with a bag of mush-mouthed stream-of-consciousness poems and a shit-ton of guitar that channeled equal parts wall of awesome and African thumb piano. The album feels both youthful and local, but big for its britches in all the right ways.
NOTE: You know it’s a good year in L.A. music when a whole other credible Top 10 list could be delivered with little or no overlap. Here’s a selection of great L.A. records that didn’t make our final 10: Aimee Mann, @#%&*! Smilers; Darker My Love, 2; Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts I-IV; Beck, Modern Guilt; Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, An Invitation; Neil Hamburger, Sings Country Winners; Emily Wells, The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties; Le Switch, And Now ... Le Switch; John Tejada, Where; The Henry Clay People, For Cheap or Free; Daedelus, Love to Make Music To.