Best Indie Albums of the Year (So Far)
Photo by Rhyan Santos
The first half of 2014 has given us a lot to talk about.
Last week Jeff Weiss picked his favorite L.A. albums from the first half of 2014; his list was mainly composed of hip-hop and electronic-focused albums.
Below, now are our picks for the best L.A. indie albums.
10. La Sera
Hour of the Dawn
The former Vivian Girls bass player seems to have channeled her dark side in Hour of the Dawn, La Sera's third full length. Songs like "Losing to the Dark" and "Control" sound more mental than anything Goodman's conjured in the past. Supplementing her madness is guitarist Todd Wisenbaker (her boo), who unleashes guitar solo after guitar solo. It's not as rough and edgy as Vivian Girls, where Cassie Ramone poured her punkess into every note, but La Sera's latest offers a proper pop fix for the summertime blues with sun-soaked guitar riffs and flower-child tenderness.
9. Guy Blakeslee
Ophelia Slowly is the first solo album by the Entrance Band's chieftain in a decade. Featuring moody compositions that highlight his affinity for anguish and rebirth - Guy Blakeslee's work is a bluesy journey into the soul of a tortured artist that touches on his own personal struggles with addiction. It also inspires that reflective mood where you either jump a moving train and escape, or lay in bathtub and melt away in sorrow.
8. Damaged Bug
After leaving S.F. and taking a break from Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer landed in L.A. late last year. Favoring solitude, while occasionally DJing on Henry Rollins' KCRW show, Dwyer ditched his guitar in favor of an early '80s Moog synthesizer. The result, under the moniker "Damaged Bug," is a record that occasionally meanders into a cloud of synthetic noise and computer glitches, but ultimately finds itself grounded in minimalist melodies and sci-fuzz dance tracks.
Girlpool are two teenage girls who met at local DIY venue the Smell. When they got to talking, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad decided to write music that emancipated their thoughts into a raw, amateurish grungy-folk debut that's unabashedly feminist. It's also a vulgar, sexual, and intimate portrayal of two ladies trapped in male-dominated world - feeling undervalued and pissed off.
StaG's second full-length record is a dreamy folk epic that sounds chillwave (think Panda Bear), but laden with disparate elements of doo-wop, uplifting rhythms, and heavy doses of nostalgia on tracks like "Pickmeup." The record is the brainchild of L.A. natives Matt McGuire and Will Walden, who were influenced by ambient pop and feelings of isolation. Difference is their their self-acceptance finally taking flight.
5. Jack Name
In January, White Fence's guitarist released a solo record, a "rock opera" of sorts, experimenting with trippy effects to create an album featuring Ziggy Stardust melodrama and weird symbolism. It's digital-psychedelia woven into a "sci-fi novella" narrative. It's also garage rock, I mean, you can hear the Ty Segall influence on "Do the Shadow," and in other parts, it screams Rocky Horror.
4. Le Butcherettes
Cry is for the Flies
On Le Butcherettes' sophomore effort Cry is for the Flies, Teresa Suárez's high-pitched yowl omits debauchery. But it's not the same kind of blood-soaked garage rock from 2011's Sin Sin Sin. This time, the L.A.-based trio have settled for a beautiful narrative that's grounded in sadness and guilt, channeled through Suárez's venomous punk poetry. Add in guest appearances by Garbage's Shirley Manson and Henry Rollins, and Cry is for the Flies is flat out bitchin.'
3. together PANGEA
On the surface, together PANGEA's third record is a sleazy garage rock ode to limp dicks and the shit you did in college. Then you look deeper, and realize William Keegan's songwriting has endless range: early swinging rock 'n' roll, diverse influences like Nirvana, King Tuff, and the Beatles. Badillac is an amalgamation of all that, plus, a relentless showcase of the L.A. trio's absolute disregard for proper etiquette.
2. Cherry Glazerr
Compared to all the rest of Burger Records' 2014 releases - and there's been a lot - Cherry Glazerr's debut stands atop the mountain of stoned rockers. Haxel Princess is an anti-statement; irreverent and bratty, which you might expect from three L.A. kids still in high school. Still, it's held in place by frontwoman Clementine Creevy's haunted vocals and psychedelic influences.
The L.A. quartet's second album is an uncompromising follow-up to 2010's The Fool. It's not radio friendly and requires effort, like Radiohead and early Pink Floyd. But it's the interplay of Warpaint's various parts, the kindred spirits of four talented musicians merging together, that makes their sophomore effort so mesmerizing. The hypnotic vocals of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman, who do most of the singing, soothes the senses for the bottom-heavy rhythm section to seduce the listener. Warpaint showcases their technical mastery on this record, rather than catering to the masses with direct hooks aimed at the pleasure-principle. In fact, it's a masterpiece.
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