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
Discovery, Discovery (XL Recordings)
On the surface, the “conceit” of New York band Discovery is a tad dubious. White Brooklynites make a modern-day R&B album. Hmm. In practice, though, this wonderful pop album will have you dancing on the ceiling, with tears in your eyes, all night long. Featuring guest appearances by members of both Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend — wait! come back! — Discovery’s self-titled debut draws from the Pet Shop Boys, Beyoncé, Dirty Projectors, Erasure and ’90s new jack swing to create something thoroughly modern. It’s a mystery why people slept on this record; it’s totally hummable. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” should be have been a Billboard hit, and their version of the the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” recorded before Michael’s death, reimagines the pop gem as a synthetic handclap beat explosion.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Beware (Drag City)
Will Oldham is a prolific songwriter. He drops at least a record a year, usually, and most contain a few gems and just as many inspired throwaways. Beware, though, is a perfect country-rock record, and I offer the song “I Don’t Belong to Anyone” as evidence. With a lilting voice that’s never been stronger, Oldham, who is Bonnie “Prince” Billy, croons about the joys of being single in simple, renegade fashion: “It’s kind of easy to have some fun/When you don’t belong to anyone,” he sings before the song falls into a fiddle-led bridge. “You Don’t Love Me” mines the same territory from a different angle: “You don’t love me, that’s all right/’cause you cling to me all through the night.” But this isn’t a lonely record: There are belly laughs and Neil Young homages — “My Life’s Work,” for one — as well as peaceful meditations on mortality. Combined, Oldham/Billy has created the best album in a career filled with highlights.
The Strange Boys,The Strange Boys and Girls Club (In the Red Records)
There was no better debut rock & roll album this year than The Strange Boys and Girls Club. Made by four guys in their early 20s who look 16, the Austin band’s cocky, self-assured, witty maximum R&B album drew from early-career Rolling Stones and Kinks without being derivative, and sounds as cocksure as Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Live, they click with a ferocity that belies their physical stature (these guys are skinny and small). Singer Ryan Sambol’s yawl suggests Dylan, and when he sings, on “I Heard You Wanna Beat Me Up,” that “I’m in trouble with another man, I did something I shouldn’t have,” it’s hard to tell whether he slept with him or stole his girlfriend. The band just signed to Rough Trade Records, and the buzz on their forthcoming full-length is loud. The Strange Boys. Say it again: The Strange Boys.
Tom Brosseau, Posthumous Success (Fat Cat Records)
I wrote a lot about Tom Brosseau this year. The North Dakota transplant, who now lives in Los Angeles, has a voice that’s a gentle warble, an unsurpassed lyrical wit, and a melodic sense that leads to totally hummable songs. This is the record I listened to most this year — but not that many other people did, apparently. His earlier records were pretty basic, able, singer-songwriter releases, but for Posthumous Success — which hopefully won’t prove accurate — he teamed with Fat Cat Records label mates Adam Pierce of Mice Parade and Small Sails’ Ethan Rose to make a thicker, richer, rock record. These are structured, sturdy songs but with an effortless glint to them. “Give Me a Drumroll,” for example, features the recurrent Miss Lucy character, and starts as a simple plucked guitar thing before expanding into a glorious harmonic convergence of ringing tones and, yes, a brushed drumroll. Like most great records, it has a few, quiet interlude instrumentals, and they are the perfect pauses before getting back to the matter at hand.
HEALTH, Get Color(Lovepump United)
It’s a mystery why Brooklyn’s getting all the praise in the underground for their bands, when Los Angeles this year spit out so many distinctive sounds. The Manimal posse offered Warpaint, Rainbow Arabia and Hecuba, and the thriving Low End Theory scene continued to excite with Nosaj Thing, Jogger, Flying Lotus and Daddy Kev. But the band who created the best Los Angeles album of the year was HEALTH, four dudes who harnessed noise, punk and rhythm to create a wildly unique — and abrasive — sound. The band deftly walked a line between beat, punk and noise musics, and on Get Color, they suggested a convergence that seemed absolutely inevitable. Their video for the raging “Die Slow” was one of the best of the year, and the song, well, shreds. And that’s just the tip. It’s not an album for everyone, but for those who like rhythm and fury, it’s a beast.