Most publications' year-end best-of lists are the product of group-think, carefully tallied from the lists of individual writers and editors in an effort to achieve something resembling consensus. While there's nothing wrong with that approach, we decided to make this list a little more personal — and therefore, perhaps, a little less predictable.
Instead of asking for lists, we asked L.A. Weekly music writers to pick just one album by an L.A.-based band or artist from 2014 that really stood out. Their absolute, bar-none, hands-down favorite of the year.
In the end, only 10 albums got mentioned. Several will probably surprise you, but shouldn't that be the point of these lists? These were, for us, the best albums of 2014. What were yours?
ACxDC, Antichrist Demoncore
ACxDC is the black, sun-bleached banner under which legions of suburban garage warriors in Southern California's latest hardcore punk explosion band together. The quintet’s first full-length (simply named Antichrist Demoncore) is a fully formed monster of an album going way beyond the tongue-in-cheek nature of punk rock and its three-chord creed. Somewhere between the dueling hardcore riffage of Aldo Felix and Brian Amalfitano, and the sludgy, heavier than hell sonic depression expertly helmed by drummer Jorge Herrera, Antichrist Demoncore emerges as a dark, enticing jewel — the more you listen, the harder it is to turn away. — Theis Duelund
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Piñata
Madlib is an experimental producer who swallowed mushrooms and created an alter ego. Freddie Gibbs is a diehard gangster rapper who sold Oxycontin and got shot at like, last month. Odd coupling in theory. Yet they have one important thing in common — neither gives much of a fuck except when it comes to music. On Piñata, Madlib lays down straight-from-vinyl samples that swirl and glitter like a snow globe as Gibbs spills some grown man shit, admitting his role in a relationship’s demise and copping to shame about his life of crime. It’s the kind of album you play when, facing another insomnia-riddled night in bed, you drift down the boulevards of L.A. in your car instead, those sinister palms your only company. — Rebecca Haithcoat
In the Valley Below, The Belt
Exquisite his ‘n’ hers harmonies, innate melodicism and flotation-tank wooziness aside, it’s ITVB’s flirtatious, stylistic ambiguity that makes The Belt so addictive. The Echo Park duo explores xx-worthy introversion, tick-tock beatboxes, and anthemic Peter Gabriel-isms with equal wonder; conjuring moods at once majestically forlorn and sunnily optimistic (even hedonistic). Though this debut sometimes stumbles into schizophrenia (“Neverminders” and “Last Soul” could be a different band), all is forgiven by the delicious deathbed farewell of "Hymnal" and the intravenously wanton “Palm Tree Fire.” — Paul Rogers
Obliterations, Poison Everything
When members of rock acts Black Mountain and Night Horse started jamming together, anger over relationships gone bad led to this 29-minute slab of venomous mayhem. Taking on an uglier hardcore punk edge than their parent acts, Obliterations feature paint-stripping vocals and caustic riffs that worship at the altar of Motorhead and Black Flag. The sense of personal frustration being exorcised here makes this one of the most vital — and easily relatable — L.A. punk records in recent memory. — Jason Roche
Sahy Uhns, Courtship Dances
The second full-length album from Proximal Records co-founder Carl Madison Burgin and his Sahy Uhns production alias, Courtship Dances builds on the beat scene palette of its predecessor, 2011's An Intolerant Disdain of Underlings, with an inspired, restless spirit. Tracks dance and shapeshift like strange sea creatures, as wobbly hip-hop beats dissolve into fragile ambient passages and menacing electro-funk tumbles into a simmering broth of synth drones and videogame blips. The last time an L.A.-based beat producer not named Flying Lotus crafted an album-length statement this compelling, it was Shlohmo's Bad Vibes. It's that good. — Andy Hermann
As America's undisputed king of mainstream dubstep, Skrillex has had his fair share of success, long before the release of his first full-length studio album, Recess, this year. But what stood out about Recess was how Skrillex managed to produce something so true to his style while also seamlessly dipping into other genres of dance music, showcasing how far he’s come as an artist since the days of Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. — Sarah Purkrabek
White Fence, For the Recently Found Innocent
With his latest and perhaps best work yet, White Fence’s Tim Presley made the grand leap from recording solo in his bedroom to doing so in friend and producer Ty Segall’s garage. But even if he’d laid this record down under a bridge, his freak-psych verses would probably still be as sweet, freaky, psychy and earnest. Even more on-point this time around are tour drummer and Segall collaborator Nick Murray’s beastly beats. In a year packed with such a mess of rehashes and reheats of all sorts of crap genre-play, Presley proves here that his dreamy sonic contemplations are leagues above all of them. — Paul T. Bradley
YG, My Krazy Life
YG’s My Krazy Life succeeds in making gangsta rap fun for everyone. The album is stacked with gritty bangers that are perfect for both partying and pondering. Over DJ Mustard productions that absolutely bump, YG delivers an uncensored look into the daily life of a Blood that still manages to stay radio-friendly. The album’s skillful pairing of classic L.A. gangsta rap grit and listenable ratchet beats makes it an instant classic. — Mary Grace Cerni
Ty Segall, Manipulator
Let's face it, most of SoCal's psychedelic garagers tend to sound like Syd Barrett fronting some desultory group of homogenized sheep. Like an all-seeing shaman, Segall steps away from the flock with Manipulator (his seventh solo record) by filtering out the sludge for some straight-ahead rock & roll. Segall's epic includes 17 tracks of crystal-clear solos and pop-rock melodies; he's cutting through his influences like a butterfly knife, slicing up Aladdin Sane-era Bowie, T.Rex glam, Sgt. Pepper ambition, and the Laurel Canyon dreaminess of Neil Young. Hands down, Manipulator is 2014's best '70s rock record. — Art Tavana
Manipulator is an album that will inspire you to learn to play guitar, then drums, then bass, then guitar again — then intimidate you into giving them all up because of how seamlessly each element comes together on Ty Segall's 17-song masterpiece. With each song so solid it could be a single, Manipulator is a steadfast mixture of Segall's endless repertoire of styles and a fantastic entry point for fans new to his work, as well as a surefire favorite for fans of old. — Artemis Thomas-Hansard
Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy
We named Open Mike Eagle the hottest thing in indie rap in the summer of 2013. Hate to say we told you so, but one year later Eagle dropped his masterpiece, Dark Comedy. Over an excellently selected array of production, Eagle manages to be innovative with his vocals — at times bordering on the avant-garde — while still maintaining his universally accessible charm. Dark Comedy is smart, funny, emotive, energizing, enriching and inspiring, all things a rap album can and should be. — Chaz Kangas
Open Mike Eagle couches the uncomfortable truth in the sidesplitting. Dark Comedy is his hilariously poignant and personal dissection of rap, the music industry, and men turned tech-addled holograms. It’s an attempt to grin rather than grimace, to rebuild one punch line at a time; one of the most intelligent, culturally relevant albums of 2014. In a world of increasingly disposable art, he’s turned his tragicomedy into the antithesis of ephemeral. We will be laughing through the tears for years to come. — Max Bell
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Dark Comedy is full of whimsical visions and perceptive contradictions. It addresses complex questions about technology and identity, while leaving room for candy bar sponsorships and new weed colors. But what makes it especially resonant is the way Open Mike Eagle explores the economics and struggles of creative life. “Don’t call us — we’ll call you,” the imaginary booker promises on “Jon Lovitz (Fantasy Booking Yarn),” after a scheduling conflict derails the show offer of a lifetime. If only life were always so fair. — Peter Holslin