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The 10 Best Young L.A. Singer-Songwriters

Jenny O.
Jenny O.
Photo credit: Melanie Bellomo

On these pages we recently took a stab at the 20 greatest singer-songwriters in history. But the exercise was frustrating at times, because we longed to include some of the younger-generation torch bearers. 

So we decided to supplement that list with this one, which includes only musical scribes from L.A. who are in the early parts of their careers. Without further ado, then, here are 10 of our favorites, in no particular order. 

Jenny O. (above)
When Jenny O. ditched New York and landed in L.A., her intimate songwriting touch found its natural habitat - the L.A. hippy trail. Her music dips heavily into a folkie '90s pot - think of her as a bluesier and more tender Mazzy Star - with the soul of a classic singer-songwriter, like Patti Smith or Neil Young. She's like a groovy Woodstock flower child, composing her fearless music on an old acoustic guitar, straight from the heart. -Art Tavana

Ben SchneiderEXPAND
Ben Schneider
Photo credit: Eric Byers

Ben Schneider
If there's one thing Lord Huron's Ben Schneider believes in, it's adventure. His songs are chock full of mysterious women, ghosts, and wild dreams (that may not actually be dreams). Named after the Great Lake where he grew up, Schneider's Lord Huron solo project was supposed to just be a hobby while he was teaching art in 2010. After he posted songs online, however, it was clear that the internet was not going to let him keep it as just a hobby. After a number of EPs, in 2012 Schneider put out one of the most imaginative debut albums we've seen in some time. We suspect he's just getting warm. -Molly Bergen

Kan Wakan: Peter Potyondy, Gueorgui Linev, and Kristianne BautistaEXPAND
Kan Wakan: Peter Potyondy, Gueorgui Linev, and Kristianne Bautista
Photo credit: Cameron Hopkins

Gueorgui Linev
Gueorgui Linev sees films in his head. After playing in a number of bands around town, Linev struck out on his own in 2010. Now, having gathered band members from craigslist, Linev has built a dream team to match the music in his head. Naming the project Kan Wakan - inspired by the Tagalog word for outer space - his music shimmers with vibrant colors and lyrics that tug on the corners of your mind you haven't used in a while. It is music that inspires us to dream bigger. -Molly Bergen

Miguel
Miguel
Photo credit: Timothy Norris

Miguel
"Let me sit this ass on you," begins "Rocket," the song Miguel co-wrote for Beyoncé. But dude had already showed us that one can be filthy and sensitive on his own 2012 "art & B" opus Kaleidoscope Dream. Mostly recorded in his bedroom and largely focused on the things that go on there, the album puts forth a vision of enlightened sexual longing in a future-classic soundscape. -Cristina Black

Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino
Bobb Bruno and Bethany Cosentino
Photo courtesy of Mexican Summer Records

Bethany Cosentino
Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino's songwriting is fueled by California sunshine. She's the quintessential bikini beach songstress (gloom being her Kryptonite), a hopeless romantic, disinterested in grandiose statements or skyscrapers. Power chords, Blink-182 records, the open road - that's her fix. But it's the honesty of her words, flowing like diary passages written during an endless summer, that's got everyone hooked on Best Coast's head-bopping fuzz. It's strikingly simple, and that's the whole point. -Art Tavana

Jennifer PearlEXPAND
Jennifer Pearl
Photo credit: Leonard Drorian

Jennifer Pearl
Jennifer Pearl's ghostly vocals echo with a Lynchian quality, adding texture to her band Vum's gothic-psychedelia. Her words, filled with paranoid existentialism, describe lush landscapes and mental breakdowns. Pearl embraces a form of minimalism in her vocal delivery, combining styles found in darkwave and proto-punk. It's deep, like a twisting L.A. noire mystery, and on a track like "Hall of Mirrors," downright spooky. -Art Tavana

Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean
Photo credit: Timothy Norris

Frank Ocean
It was almost like the world stopped for a minute when Frank Ocean sang "Bad Religion" in 2012 on Fallon. The song and its album, Channel Orange - which explored themes of gay guilt, obsessive love, money problems and drug fatigue - cemented Ocean as a confessional singer-songwriter of epic stature, intensely honest and freshly psychedelic. -Cristina Black

Jack Name
Jack Name
Photo courtesy of Drag City imprint God? Records

Jack Name
Jack Name (real name John Webster Adams) is a touring guitarist with White Fence. As a solo artist he's more complex, switching between pre-programmed backing tracks and shadowy garage rock, updated with a MacBook. It all comes together on the nonconformist poetry found on his album Light Show, influenced by Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, Brian Eno, and the operatic overtures of Rocky Horror. L.A. is where he likes to make-believe, get lost, and tinker with his musical toys. -Art Tavana

Moses Sumney
Moses Sumney
Photo credit: Ryan Orange

Moses Sumney
Like most great singer-songwriters, Moses Sumney can carry the stage solo. But his sound isn't stripped down. It's a full, live-looped symphony of his sweet-soul voice and dream-jazz guitar playing. He's got the industry salivating for a debut full-length, largely on the strength of SoundCloud and YouTube offerings like "Replaceable," which is the most brutally direct I'm-dumping-you song since Beyoncé sang "to the left, to the left." -Cristina Black

Chelsea Wolfe
Chelsea Wolfe
Photo courtesy of Sargent House Records

Chelsea Wolfe
Chelsea Wolfe has a super power - she can destroy and rebuild your entire emotional constitution in the space of a single song. Her ice-like voice slices through scary seas of reverb, with cryptic lyrics as splintered life rafts of hope. A half decade into her career, Wolfe has already handled horror-noise (2011's Apokalypsis), dark folk (2012's Unknown Rooms) and ghost-industrial dance music (last year's Pain is Beauty), to devastating effect. -Cristina Black

See also: Top 20 Singer-Songwriters of All Time

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