Best L.A. Musicians By Genre
Our Best Of L.A. issue is out. High five!
Among many other tidbits about what makes our city great in this special edition, you'll find our picks for L.A.'s best rockers, rappers, DJs, and other assorted music makers. There were a lot to choose from, but we narrowed it down to these artists:
See also: Best Music Venues in L.A.
Best Indie Band: Haim
The first thing to know: Haim rhymes with "time" and not "name." These three sisters from the Valley -- Este, 27, Danielle, 24, and Alana, 21 -- craft songs so fresh and compelling that they're poised to take over the indie-pop world. The comparisons they've garnered to Fleetwood Mac aren't without merit (check their fantastic cover of "Hold Me" for reference), but on their major-label debut, Days Are Gone, Haim have revealed themselves to be something all their own. From the stuttering echoes of "Falling" and the infectious clap-along chorus of "The Wire" to their newest songs, they're poised for domination. And, in a case of fortuitous timing, they've got a European tour opening for Phoenix in November. haimtheband.com. --Patrick James
See also: Our cover story on Haim
Best DJ: Kazell
L.A. has no shortage of globe-trotting spinners, from Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia to the American superstar du jour, Skrillex. Locals from Trent Cantrelle to Steve Prior, DJ Ruff to Droog can play a damn solid set, too. But, frankly, Kazell -- the Brit-born Kevin Bazell -- is L.A.'s only Michelin three-star chef de electronic cuisine. Maybe it's his experience touring the nation and parts of the world as an opener for such DJ's DJs as Sasha and John Digweed. But Kazell seems to understand that taking a club from silence to madness is a skill lost on the push-button, one-hour headliners who grace the festival circuit with their aural money shots. Subtle grooves give way to twisted, peak-hour monsters with Kazell, and you won't even realize you've just turned the corner. You can find him on occasional Saturdays at Avalon Hollywood. kazell.com. --Dennis Romero
Best Rapper: Kendrick Lamar
Upon the release last year of his major-label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, critics agreed that Compton-bred rapper Kendrick Lamar's work belonged in the pantheon of classic hip-hop albums. A year later, after he'd become internationally popular and released one of the best verses in recent memory on "Control," Lamar's complex and emotionally fraught narratives still resonate. Tracks like his somber and (ironically) sobering single "Swimming Pools (Drank)" seemed antithetical to L.A. radio yet somehow dominated it, alongside tracks like A$AP Rocky's hedonistic and carefree "Fuckin' Problems," on which Lamar also appears. It seems that no matter what kind of song he appears on, he will make you evaluate yourself and the world around you. kendricklamar.com. --Max Bell
See also: Our cover story on Kendrick Lamar
Best Latin Alternative Band: Las Cafeteras
Seven-piece East L.A. ensemble Las Cafeteras met while taking classes to learn a traditional type of Mexican music, Son Jarocho, at the Eastside Cafe in El Sereno. Borrowed from Veracruz, Son Jarocho is a mix of danceable, indigenous, Spanish and African music, and Las Cafeteras mix it with folk and hip-hop. Their bilingual, politically driven songs have caught on, and they've toured with acts including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Ozomatli. Last year Las Cafeteras released their first studio album, It's Time, to critical acclaim, and their more recent "Luna Lovers" video has been popular. It's rare for a group to mix the traditional with the modern with such aplomb, but thankfully Las Cafeteras remain strongly committed to their unique style. lascafeteras.com. --Juan Gutierrez
See also: Las Cafeteras Defy Tradition
The Entrance Band
Best Rock Band: The Entrance Band
Yes, the heart of rock & roll still beats in Los Angeles. For proof, no need to venture farther than whatever tiny local club The Entrance Band happens to be playing. The trio, which formed in Chicago, is blessed proof that psych rock is alive and well; with a trippy visual aesthetic, a devoted fan base and a live show that the band's founder and lead singer, Guy Blakeslee, aptly describes as "ritualistic," it's not clear why they're not incredibly famous. Composed of Blakeslee, Derek James and bassist Paz Lenchantin, the act pulls off stoner rock without sounding like stoned throwbacks, and their forthcoming LP (their seventh, funded through Kickstarter) is due out in November. entranceband.com. --Katie Bain
Best Metal Band: Intronaut
Plenty of metal bands play heavy riffs, but the four men comprising Intronaut layer those riffs with a stunning musical dexterity. Albums like 2013's Habitual Levitations show a group walking a delicate balance between stoner-doom and polyrhythmic jazz-fusion structures. They're able to pull it off because guitarists/vocalists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick roar mightily and rain down riffs that appeal to fans of acts like Mastodon and Isis. Bassist Joe Lester provides a strong underpinning that makes one want to head-bang -- without losing the groove. Drummer Danny Walker, meanwhile, is one of the most versatile percussionists in metal, able to transition seamlessly from ferocious, double-bass pounding to the slower stuff. Pretty impressive. intronautofficial.com. --Jason Roche
Best Live Band: Dustbowl Revival
In a city like Los Angeles, home to musical stars in nearly every known genre, handing out the Best Live Band title is not easy. But the free-thinking local collective Dustbowl Revival's upbeat, old-school, All-American sonic safaris exemplify everything shows should be: hot, spontaneous, engaging and, best of all, a pleasure to hear. With a dazzling array of instrumentation -- tuba, accordion, pedal steel, fiddle, clarinet, trumpet, banjo -- they perform a sturdy repertoire of vintage numbers that run the gamut, from gospel and jazz to country and swing to blues. In a nutshell, Dustbowl Revival deliver the goods with an admirable combination of low-key charm and high-impact musicality. dustbowlrevival.com. --Jonny Whiteside
Best Band Name: Puig Destroyer
Grindcore + The Dodgers' rookie phenom = Band name nirvana. puigdestroyer.bandcamp.com. --Ben Westhoff
Best Punk Band: The Briggs
The Briggs are the biggest local punk band you've probably never heard of. They've shared stages with heavyweights like Bad Religion, Anti-Flag and The Dropkick Murphys, and have played Warped tour. Formed by Jason LaRocca and his brother Joey -- both of whom play guitar and sing vocals -- The Briggs harmonize on catchy sing-alongs and tear it up with heavy punk riffs. They also can be funny, chanting on their most popular song, "This Is L.A.": "These streets are nothing but a parking lot/But I don't care because I'm not going anywhere." (It's played before Los Angeles Kings and Galaxy home games.) The Briggs came back strong last year after a short hiatus with the single "Panic," and their fifth album is coming soon. Get excited! thebriggs.net. --Juan Gutierrez
See also: The Best of Los Angeles 2013
Hanni El Khatib
Best Singer-Songwriter: Hanni El Khatib
Sure, looking hot and maintaining a throwback swagger help when you're starting a recording career, but how does that translate into actual music? For Hanni El Khatib, it's done through a raw blitzkrieg of garage-rock guitars, combined with cool, composed crooning that holds back as much as it lets loose. A half-Palestinian, half-Filipino heartthrob consumed with old-timey Americana, El Khatib took his career upward this year with the release of his well-reviewed sophomore work, Head in the Dirt, produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. His song "Can't Win 'em All" was featured in an Audi Super Bowl commercial, whose plot features a kid who wins over the prom queen after tangling with her date. Why El Khatib himself wasn't cast for the role we'll never know. hannielkhatib.com. --Ben Westhoff
See also: Hanni El Khatib: Hunka Burning Love
Best Local Music Legend: Shuggie Otis
The son of R&B royalty Johnny Otis, singer-songwriter Shuggie Otis made a name for himself in the hippie era through works like his psychedelic hit "Strawberry Letter 23." He even was invited to join The Rolling Stones at one point, though he turned down the offer. Then he proceeded to all but disappear for the better part of four decades, declining to release music and making few public appearances. Blame a combination of record-label disinterest and stage fright, he says today. Thankfully both barriers were overcome in the past year. Epic Records finally reissued Otis' classic 1974 work, Inspiration Information, and he began performing at venues like the Echoplex and El Rey. After years of sampling by prominent hip-hop acts like OutKast, Otis' music sounds more relevant than ever, and he's finding audiences. Here's hoping that Shuggie's time in the limelight lasts as long as his years in obscurity. shuggieotisofficial.net. --Ben Westhoff
See also: The Mystery of Shuggie Otis
Best Electronic Collective: WeDidIt
L.A.-based electronic DJ/producer crew WeDidIt was founded in 2008 by Nick Meledandri and Henry Laufer, the latter also known as venerated beat-scene producer Shlohmo. In the past five years, the guys have gone from DJing house parties to releasing records from a top-notch roster, including RL GRIME, Groundislava, D33J, Nick Melons and Earnest Blount. As a collective, this crew is creating major buzz -- and they're all younger than 25. While WeDidIt deals primarily in the underground, their sounds oscillate between sexed-out, deconstructed beats and the brand of nasty trap that's been in vogue recently. "We have always been doing what feels right to us and then dealing with the aftermath," Meledandri says of the WeDidIt business plan. The aftermath so far? Success. wediditcollective.com. --Katie Bain
Best Ska Band: Viernes 13
Having launched in 1999 while they were still in high school, East Los Angeles ska band Viernes 13 (that's Friday the 13th to you, gringo) gained popularity over the years playing backyard shows but never put out an official full-length album. That will change later this year, when the group's as-yet-untitled debut drops. But in the meantime their star has risen, and they now can be seen at big-money venues like the Roxy and House of Blues, performing alongside better-known groups like The Slackers, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Manic Hispanics. Viernes 13 differ from most ska bands through their use of bilingual lyrics, their incorporation of punk and lead singer Juan Pulido's signature look -- long hair, tied back with a bandanna. One thing's for sure: Viernes 13's lively stage presence and rowdy mosh pits set the tone for a party. facebook.com/V13RNES. --Juan Gutierrez
Best R&B Singer: TeeFlii
The teenager born Christian Jones, a native of South Central, starred in David LaChapelle's documentary about krumping, Rize. Nine years later and now called TeeFlii, he's known for his sensual, playful R&B tracks and he's set to pop as a singer. Los Angeles is filled with R&B superstars -- everyone from Frank Ocean to Chris Brown lives here -- but TeeFlii has captured the underground by way of his raunchy, endlessly fun "ratchet"-style, which makes no apologies for its debaucherous nature. Pairing with in-demand producer DJ Mustard, TeeFlii's songs sometimes offer a proposition: He's going to love you, it's going to be dirty, and you're going to enjoy it. Most listeners find it hard to resist. teeflii.com. --Ben Westhoff
Best Hip-Hop Reinvention: Snoop Lion
Just about everyone made fun of Snoop Dogg when he embraced a new moniker, Snoop Lion, but following the name change and a trip to Jamaica came one of his best albums in years, Reincarnated. The journey, it turns out, was a spiritual one as much as a physical one: Snoop embraced Rastafarianism and pledged to change the content of his songs, moving away from violent lyrics and content that's disrespectful to women. Snoop knows as well as anyone that hip-hop lyrics have too often led to real-life bloodshed, and says he's seen too many of his friends and colleagues die to let it continue. Reincarnated, and the accompanying documentary of the same name, show that he's sincere in his quest to change. Who knows if he'll maintain his Snoop Lion persona, but it's clearly something that should be celebrated rather than mocked. Snoopdogg.com. --Ben Westhoff
See also: Best Music Venues in L.A.
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