Class Honors

Dear Class of ’05,

Well, it’s been a year in the spotlight, with (some) drunken nights, and even a few stage fights, but it all led to new musical heights, didn’t it ? So glad I got to know you better this year. You are really cool and I’m sure the future promises lots of awesome stuff. Soon you’ll be all famous and shit, and you won’t remember me, but I’ll say I saw them when... You’ve graduated from the school of L.A. rock, and the world is your oyster. Congrats on winning class favorites! You deserve it, and anyone who says ya don’t are just haters! Have a bitchin’ winter! K.I.T.!

XO,
Lina Lecaro


MOST POPULAR (WITH THE GIRLS):
The Vacation

With an unwashed sex appeal and youthful swagger that’s almost never contained by a mere stage, The Vacation’s live shows are a tantalizing, tempestuous break from the self-conscious indier-than-thou grind afflicting a lot of the local scene. Led by twin bros Ben (on vocals) and Steve Tegal (lead guitar), this scrawny & shaggy quartet ain’t afraid to look silly or outrageous, or even to fall on their asses — which makes them the perfect bad boys for good girls to lust after. With vocals that sound like a cross between Marc Bolan and Johnny Rotten, mirrored by equally sneering riffs (must be a from-the-womb thing) and a couple of hooky, glam-flavored hits (e.g. the anthemic “White Noise”), their ’05 release Band From World War Zero got picked up by none other than Rick Rubin, who’ll rerelease the disc on American Records in March. But it wasn’t the record that helped the Vacation build their (mostly female) following this year — it was their live gigs (a three-night stand at the Silverlake Lounge was a highlight), which are equally rigorous whether they’re playing to five people or 500. You can be sure their audiences will be larger in ’06. See them at Gallagher’s in Huntington Beach, Sat., Dec. 31.

MOST LIKELY TO TOUR/GET IN A FIGHT WITH INTERPOL:
She Wants Revenge

Gloomy-groovesters She Wants Revenge play songs of lust and betrayal with a decidedly bleak but sultry tone that recalls Joy Division and Bauhaus. OK, some might say it totally mimics those bands. But let’s give the guys their due: The beats (courtesy of bassist/keyboardist/producer Adam 12) are ridiculously infectious, while Justin Warfield’s monotone croon is menacing and powerful enough to practically batter those beats into submission. Like Interpol, The Bravery, et al., this is synth-ensconced ’80s-style rock that makes you dance, but not in a giddy, thoughtless way. It’s as serious as that guy/girl who broke your heart and still had the power to make you come back for more. You don’t have to be 16 and hiding behind layers of eyeliner to get the soul-stomping sorrow and seduction of tunes like “Sister” and “Tear You Apart” off the band’s forthcoming Geffen/Flawless release, but it helps. Either way, Carlos D. & Co. better watch their black-draped backs. See them at the Troubadour, Mon., Dec. 19.

BEST (STAGE) PERSONALITIES
The Blood Arm

They may have milked the whole “Franz Ferdinand’s favorite band thing” (FF’s Alex Kapranos gushed about ’em in Q and NME last year) for all it’s worth, but The Blood Arm didn’t really need to. The quirky quartet, featuring drummer Zach Amos, guitarist Zabastian Carlisle, keyboardist Dyan Valdes and unruly singer Nathaniel Fregoso, have an opposites-attract kind of chemistry when they play that you can’t take your eyes off of, even when you kinda want to. Fregoso always seems to be drunk-by-the-grooves, which leads him to do strange things like straddle speakers — and his drummer — or jump into the crowd and kiss some stunned kid in a mohawk. Party-dress clad Valdes provides a gush of buoyant charm to the mix, her keyboard parts bouncing like a rubber ball amid a heated game of jacks, while Amos and Carlisle anchor the whole ensemble with a rhythmic stomp that recalls The Strokes. Their local radio hit “Do I Have Your Attention” posed the question, but judging from their more-than-poised, slightly cocky performances, The Blood Arm already know the answer.

BIGGEST PARTIERS
Dakah
With up to 70 people performing onstage at once, hip-hop orchestra Dakah aren’t just a super-group, they’re a supa-dupa-dupa group. Led by braided conductor Double G, this mega-music experience boasts full woodwind, string, brass, and rhythm sections; a host of guest rappers and singers; plus two super-skilled spin stars, DJs Haul and Mason (from the dance club Quality) on the wax. The result is a rollicking stage shindig like no other, an orchestral funk-fest of super-size proportions that feels spontaneous and a little all over the place — but is actually structured and precise, thanks to maestro G’s watchful lead. The group grew out of wild Temple Bar stage jams, and its repertoire consists of soul covers, culturally conscious funked-out jazz originals and, most recently, instrumentally embellished variations on Gangstarr. Their sets at South By Southwest this year were some of the fest’s freakiest offerings, with poet Saul Williams taking the mic for some special words of wisdom.

MOST LIKELY TO BE ASKED TO THE PROM:
The 88
Reinterpreting lush & lovely limey soundscapes with a modern twist, The 88 ’s debut, Kind of Light , was so blissfully catchy and nuanced, it even caught the attention of national press and TV (Jimmy Kimmel). Where to go from there? Well, two years later, their follow-up Over and Over offered more of what we’d come to expect from these suit-clad Valley boys: delightful choruses showcasing singer Keith Stettedahl’s crisp vox and Brandon Jay’s rhythmic riffs and production sense — a combo that recalls the Beatles and Kinks, but never outright copies them. Their creamy pop cool won ’em a coveted spot on MySpace.com’s music front page even before the sophomore’s disc’s release, and a featured song spot (the introspective “Hide Another Mistake”) on the season premiere of The O.C. And if you’re thinking, “what’s next — MTV?” you’re too late: “Mistake” was just heard on Laguna Beach. See them at the Troubadour, Fri., Dec. 2.

MOST (OLD-MEETS-NU) SCHOOL SPIRIT:
Z-Trip
The mash-up craze went from underground phenom to mainstream novelty this year, spawning everything from weekly dance clubs to real-life mismatched duets. So what was one of turntablism’s leading genre-blenders to do except release a disc of all-original, unsampled material? Z-Trip ’s Shifting Gears did just what its title proclaimed, showing off the DJ/producer’s mind-blowing manipulations in a whole new way, and rocking almost as hard as his seminal bootleg masterpiece Uneasy Listening . Those who witnessed Z’s hip-hop/rock wax weaves live (featuring Gears originals and mixes — like the anti-war splice of “What’s Going On,” “War,” and “Ball of Confusion”) at this year’s Coachella know the dude is, indeed, a trip. Can’t wait to see where he takes us next. See him at the Giant Village New Year’s Eve celebration downtown, Sat., Dec. 31.


MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED:
The Like
Enough already about this comely female trio’s music-industry connections. Nepotism doesn’t buy you the tender hooks and feisty flows heard on The Like’s debut, Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? Sure, the production values (thanks, Wendy & Lisa!) give it all some extra sparkle, but this supremely catchy collection owes its hazy charm to singer-songwriter Z. Berg’s emotive vocals and the nimble textures of bandmates Charlotte Froom (drums) and Tennessee Thomas (bass). They’ve probably got some years to go before they’re able to conjure the same magic onstage, but with ages averaging under 21, they’ve got all the time in the world. See them at the Glasshouse (Pomona), Tues., Dec. 13.


BEST DRESSED (FOR EXCESS):
HorrorPops
Silver Lake residents by way of Denmark, HorrorPops are a colorful psycho-rock troupe (don’t limit them with a “billy” suffix!) deserving of their own Saturday-morning cartoon. Singer/standup bassist Patricia Day, flanked by two female dancers interpreting her spunky singin’, is a charismatic onstage force like no other, with spiffy self-made threads and plenty of attitude to match. Still, the Pops have more to offer than mere retro-goth glamour. With relentless riffs courtesy of guitarist Kim Nekroman (Nekromantix), the HorrorPops resolved to Bring It On with their second Hellcat release this year, and that’s exactly what they did. See them at House of Blues Hollywood, Fri., Dec. 30.

BEST HAIR (AND PUNK FLAIR):
The Adored
Spiky, gelled and multihued describe the well-cropped heads of The Adored as well as their spazzy-pizzazzy post-punk sound. With an English vibe that’s 99 percent indebted to The Buzzcocks, and a poppy groove that indie danceheads can dig too, the boys blew up locally, playing show after show and releasing an acclaimed EP. They hope to spread the love further with a full-length on V2 next year. See them at Spaceland, Sat., Dec. 3.

HONOR ROLL
Run Run Run, The Holograms, The Rebirth, Sky Parade, Viva K, Silversun Pickups, Orange, The Willowz, American Eyes, Dirty Little Secret, The Nervous Return, Faculty X, Darker My Love, Shapes of Race Cars, The Warlocks, Shiny Toy Guns, The Checkers, The Diffs, The Prix, Dengue Fever, Civet, Bang Sugar Bang.


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