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—Juliette Akinyi Ochieng
BEST L.A. HISTORY IN A BOX
The best archival reissues serve dual purposes. First, of course, they uncover music that’s disappeared into a hidden corner of the collective unconscious. They bring it to the surface and remind us of a continued relevancy (or explains to us why, exactly, we should forget it). The best ones also tell a story, capture a moment, stake a claim. Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968 compiles 101 selections of garage, proto-punk, jangle rock and West Coast rock created in L.A. during the explosive period of the mid and late ’60s. Over four discs, Rhino curator and executive producer Andrew Sandoval offers a rich selection of guitar rock. Each themed chapter captures a different segment of the city, moving from the Sunset Strip, where the Whisky was the place to be (the Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield, the Rising Sons, Captain Beefheart); to East L.A. and the Inland Empire (Thee Midnighters, the Electric Prunes, the W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band); the studio scene (Dino, Desi & Billy, the Monkees, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Lee Hazlewood); and the rising (but not yet established) folk and country rock scene (the Dillards, Tim Buckley, Van Dyke Parks). Combined, Where the Action Is! confidently declares that L.A.’s output during those three years deserves acknowledgement as one of the great overlooked, transformative moments in rock. “There’s a consensus that San Francisco was fantastic in the Summer of Love,” explained Sandoval last month. “They had the Grateful Dead and Santana and all these other bands. In L.A., there’s no consensus. There’s a consensus that, yes, the Byrds, and Love, and Captain Beefhheart, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, were famous, but those bands are somewhat known as mainstream bands ... I wanted L.A. to actually, at last, have some respect.” He succeeded in grand fashion. Just as important, is the package, which features Rhino’s typically inspired and comprehensive liner notes and design. We learn about the clubs and the context, the people and the places. At the end, after consuming the book and the songs, you not only have a feel for the music, but the long, complicated narrative that created it.
BEST NEW BACK-TO-THE-FUTURE VINYL RECORD STORE
It kind of boggles (and tickles) the mind that in the tech-infected 21st century there would exist this category. Seems like only yesterday the major record labels conspired to destroy the LP in order to profit off of the more lucrati— er, better sounding, compact disc. So, as vinyl enthusiasts, it is with great joy (and irony) that we celebrate the best new vinyl store in L.A., Origami on Sunset, as we dance on the grave of the CD. Yes, there are still more Starbucks in Westwood than there are fresh, vinyl record stores in the metropolitan area, but the gems that have sprouted — and remain — are thrilling. Freak Beat in the Valley, Vacation in East Hollywood, Territory BBQ & Records, Fingerprints in Long Beach, the jumbo and all-consuming Amoeba in Hollywood, and Origami in Echo Park, are the music lover’s equivalent of an antiquarian bookstore. A tiny shop just down the street from the Time Travel Mart, Origami’s about the size of Amoeba’s entryway with a selection the size of Amoeba’s soundtrack section. But within those racks are rows and rows of new LPs from around the world and across time. Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s oeuvre sits near German proto-punks Can, alongside new squares from Mika Miko, HEALTH, Silversun Pickups and Rainbow Arabia. A little bookshelf contains the week’s flyer population, cellophaned LPs line the walls, each a nice-sized work of art. When it comes to vinyl shops, it turns out, bigger isn’t always better. 1816 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park. (213) 413-3030, origamimusic.com.
BEST NEW RECORD STORE FOR ABSTRACT AND BLUNTED BEATS
The locus of the Low End Theory scene, Alpha Pup Records is the closest Angeleno analogue to the Fabric label that sprang from the north London nightclub of the same name. But unlike their British counterparts, label owners Daddy Kev and his wife, Danyell Jariel, started their increasingly essential imprint in April 2005, a full year-and-a-half before the Low End Theory owned every Wednesday night at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights. Rising from the ashes of the Celestial Recordings label that the South Bay–raised Kev ran with fellow producer Hive, Alpha Pup proved it had bite early on, offering fare from underground hip-hop staples Busdriver, Awol One, Omid, Daedelus, and Kev himself. But the last two years have seen it embark on an epic run, pairing with Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint to release seminal abstract beat offerings from Low End luminaries Ras G, Samiyam, the Gaslamp Killer, and Nosaj Thing — whose Drift is thus far the Weekly’s best local album of the year. Obtaining distribution rights to catalog material from Funkadelic and the Ohio Players, the Mount Washington–based label has adapted its strategy to suit the rapidly shifting winds of the music business. In the process, it has managed to father the next generation of beat junkies — the pups maturing into Alpha Dogs. alphapuprecords.com.