Best of L.A.

Best Of 2014


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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Sound Guy

Some people complain about the sound guy, or just ignore him altogether, but one local band was so enamored with their soundman that they named themselves after him. The now-defunct pop-punk group Otto needed to find a new name after signing with Sub Pop around 2000, so they called themselves Arlo after the legendarily patient soundman Arlo Aldahl. cq The Highland Park native formerly worked in film post-production and basically taught himself how to do sound work one night in 1992 at Mr. T's Bowl. Now based downtown at the Redwood Bar, he's come a long way since then, and was paid the ultimate compliment by Arlo, even though Aldahl himself didn't initially see it that way. Initially, he thought the idea was "kind of goofy," he says, but he really liked the band. Plus: "The first time I saw girls walking around with Arlo T-shirts, I felt better," he notes. —Falling James

Best Band
Jail Weddings
Photo courtesy of the label

Last year local gloom rockers Jail Weddings released their second full-length, Meltdown — A Declaration of Unpopular Emotion, a perhaps too-optimistic assessment of the songs within. The eight-member collective journeyed to hell and back to make the work (in the process they lost members, went nuts, spent all their money, etc.) and you can hear it in the songs, which range from bleakly optimistic to bleakly bleak. But there's something true and earnest in frontman Gabriel Hart's vocals — and the molded, orchestral backing tracks. For this reason, the work is actually quite inspiring so long as you're in the right mood. In any case, on an indie landscape full of ugly snarkiness, it's downright refreshing to hear a group performing from the heart. Even if said heart happens to be broken. —Ben Westhoff

Best Busker
Charlie Cox
Photo: Isaac Simpson

Charlie Cox has been busking at the La Brea Tar Pits park for so long that the city literally grew him a shade tree to stand under. The talented music man moved from North Florida to L.A. in 1975. "I had a job lined up, but it didn't work out," Cox explains. "Someone told me they had buskers over near the art museum, and I've been playing here ever since." Cox sings old folk songs, bluegrass and an occasional original, using a banjo, mandolin, guitar and pennywhistle. He doesn't take requests for contemporary hits (which he calls "mindless") but the museum still recognizes him as a valuable staple, even carrying his CD in the gift shop. "It's an all-around love fest over here," he says. You can find Cox busking under his tree from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., every day except Mondays and Wednesdays. For a special treat, ask him to play "The Original Tar Pit Waltz." —Isaac Simpson

5801 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile, 90036.

5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 90036-4539
Best Rapper
Open Mike Eagle
Photo: Open Mike Eagle

It's a brilliant, rare thing in hip-hop (or any art form, for that matter) when an artist abandons pretense entirely and settles into himself. Such is the case on Dark Comedy, the latest album from Los Angeles rapper Open Mike Eagle. Though the Project Blowed veteran is still far from a household name, over the last year and a half his profile has jumped considerably; he appeared on Marc Maron's uber-popular podcast and made a hilarious song with comedic it-dude Hannibal Buress, and Dark Comedy is being called one of the year's best hip-hop albums. (Let's not even talk about the idiots at Harvard & Stone who wouldn't let Mike perform there.) It's not that he wasn't great before, but he now seems completely at ease with who he is — a struggling, conflicted artist and dad who somehow thrives in an industry that doesn't know quite what to make of him. You could call his songs indie, or emo, or artsy, but what they really are is mature. That, and joyful to hear. —Ben Westhoff,

Best DJ
Marques Wyatt
Photo: Alissa Everett

In an age of six-figure-a-night DJs who play the same 12 songs every time (usually their own), it can be hard to find art and finesse in contemporary electronic dance music. But sets by L.A. house king Marques Wyatt will bring you back to earth, with his nods to New York royalty such as Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and Masters at Work. But he doesn't neglect the West Coast: Wyatt proved that house still stirs the Angeleno soul when he hosted a summer Made in L.A. party at the Hammer Museum featuring fellow diehards Doc Martin and Raul Campos. The turnout was phenomenal. Give the man credit for bringing house to Santa Monica in the 1980s, hosting Knuckles at his legendary Does Your Mama Know weekly party in Hollywood in 1997, and continuing to prove that EDM can still have soul, via his contemporary parties known as Deep L.A. He told us this year that house pioneer Knuckles "allowed this music to be taken seriously," and the same goes for Wyatt, especially here in Southern California. —Dennis Romero

Best Lounge Act

As surreal as a David Lynch film, 79-year-old Jimmy Angel says he was a former teen idol, a friend and high school classmate of Elvis Presley and the adopted son of infamous mob boss Joe Columbo. We don't know about all that, but with his coal-black pompadour and a voice that carries the smoothness of his Memphis upbringing, Angel performs rockabilly songs biweekly in a weird and wonderful lounge show at the midcentury SmokeHouse restaurant in Burbank. Backed by a tight trio, Angel's original songs and offbeat stage banter will leave you in awe. Catch his trippy act while you are knocking back a cocktail in the 1946-vintage Smoke House bar, and things will be even more intense. —Nikki Kreuzer

4420 Lakeside Drive, Burbank, 91505. (818) 845-3731,


Best Sound Guy: Arlo Aldahl


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