The 10 Best L.A. Albums of 2013
Courtesy of the artist
Los Angeles' place in the national music scene has been questioned in recent years; for a while, our hip-hop scene was said to have fallen off, and then we were an indie rock wasteland.
But nobody can seriously claim that Los Angeles isn't an important player in the music conversation right now, if not dominating it. Pretty much across genres, local acts had some of the year's best albums in 2013, and not just transplants either, but primarily homegrown folk. What we're saying is that we probably could claim Yeezus if we wanted to, but there were so many other great local albums, we couldn't be bothered. -Ben Westhoff
Laid Out EP
Sure, it's just five tracks, but Laid Out, the March EP from producer and WeDidIt co-founder Shlohmo, is some of that mind melding, time bending shit that plays slow and sinuous, the musical equivalent of a lava lamp casting shadows in a low-lit room. On Laid Out, woozy, R&B-leaning samples and minimalist beats are assembled into high-level makeout music that shows off the best instincts of L.A.'s home grown electronic scene. -Katie Bain
9. Jonathan Wilson
Someone had to pick up the L.A. freak folk flag after Devendra Banhart decamped to New York. In October Echo Park singer-songwriter Jonathan Wilson released Fanfare, a reminder to those worried that computer music is eating our brains that Laurel Canyon folk rock is still a thing. Fanfare is 13 tracks of both hushed and funky psychedelia, bridging the generation gap with contributions from Laurel Canyon OGs Graham Nash, David Crosby and Jackson Browne, as well as Father John Misty and Mike Campbell. With Fanfare, the freak flag flies high. -Katie Bain
8. Youth Code
You'd expect to hear Youth Code at a nightclub in Blade Runner: manically danceable beats enshrined in cold and clanky industrial nihilism. Masterminded by Sara Taylor and Ryan George (the latter formerly of Atascadero's straight edge hardcore outfit Carry On), Youth Code's eponymous debut album is equal parts Wax Trax! Records, punk aggression, and neo-folk bravado. Tracks like "Let the Sky Burn," "Carried Mask," and "Sick Skinned" will leave burn marks on your eardrums. -Theis Duelund
7. Hellfyre Club
Dorner vs. Tookie
Rapper and Low End Theory co-host MC Nocando's Hellfyre Club has a fantastic roster, which is on display on their biting and irreverent compilation Dorner vs. Tookie. Solo cuts and battle rhyme collaborations are backed by thumping, electronic leaning beats. The weary meets the whimsical and the sociopolitical is rendered turnt up. Above all, Dorner vs. Tookie encapsulates Hellfyre's ethos: uncompromising art sans pretension. -Max Bell
See also: Shitty Band Names: A History
Writing a decent love song, walking a fine line between romantic and cliché, sexy and vulgar, is a difficult task. Somehow, Rhye has managed a whole album of them. Singer/producer Mike Milosh, of Sherman Oaks, and producer Robin Hannibal, of Silver Lake, have put out a debut album that draws comparisons to, of all people, Sade. Woman is full of soft, lush melodies that contrast with unflinchingly honest lyrics; this is not easy listening. These guys remind you why falling in love hurts so good and leave you on the brink of madness. -Molly Bergen
5. Tyler, The Creator
Vegas will accept no bets for when Tyler will finally reach maturity. He's still sipping Capri Sun. He still wants to ride unicorns, but will still settle for skating down Fairfax, provided you fucks stop asking for photos. Wolf is equal parts moody rants, pop culture eye-pokes, summer camp diary entries, and music to play in the tree house that he never had. Tyler also finally found a singular production style -- wringing Madlib, The Neptunes, and '70s jazz into a poison smoothie. The most overhyped artist in the history of the Internet did the unthinkable: he made the year's most underrated record. -Jeff Weiss
4. Earl Sweatshirt
Earl Sweatshirt's long-awaited debut Doris is the complex blend of honesty and antics we expected from the formerly "exiled" 19 year-old member of Odd Future. Rooted in dusty loop-leaning production, Doris is, despite involvement from The Neptunes and RZA, the kind of hip-hop that Columbia Records has avoided since the early days of Big L. Earl and his extensive ensemble speak on everything from his estranged father to disenchanted rap fans, meanwhile contemplating coming undone -- while rolling blunts, of course. -Jake Paine
It's rare that dance-able albums tug the heartstrings without indulging in sentimentality. Classixx's debut Hanging Gardens is an exception, physically and emotionally moving without being cloying. Pulling from genres including electronic dance music, disco, and funk, Classixx have made a cohesive record that will likely have staying power, and will certainly have you contemplating calling up lost loves. -Max Bell
Days Are Gone
Music critics have been fumbling for the right words to describe the sound of San Fernando Valley sister trio Haim. It's pop, sure, but like, electro pop. Or maybe folk R&B? Indie rock? Just rock? It doesn't matter. Built with layers of clean instrumentation and sophisticated song structures, their debut Days Are Gone has thrust the sisters -- Danielle, Alana and Este --onto a worldwide stage that has in the last year included gigs at Glastonbury and on Saturday Night Live, and a number one spot on the UK albums chart. One thing is for sure: Days Are Gone has both balls and heart to spare. -Katie Bain
Most modern musicians wax nostalgic for a false utopian past or hallucinate a neon UFO futurism indebted to Marvin the Martian, Funkadelic, and Back to the Future 2. Thundercat refuses all duality. The South Central-raised bass god has perfected jazz-fusion riffs worthy of orbiting the planets of great '70s funk Pharaohs named George (Duke, Benson, Clinton). He's even named after an indelible '80s cartoon.
But rather than use his influences as a final destination, he uses them as a launching pad. Flying Lotus handles production, incorporating enough lunar squeaks and rappelling-through-the-void tricks to make proud the Interstellar Space ghost of John Coltrane. But what makes Apocalypse special is its light-speed sweeps from falsetto psych-pop ("Oh Sheit, It's X") to florescent R&B ballads ("Evangelion") to soulful funereal requiems ("A Message for Austin/Praise the Lord/Enter the Void").
Apocalypse is past, present, and future; heartbreak, setbacks, and transcendence amidst chaos. You don't need a spaceship when you can teleport. -Jeff Weiss
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