The Best L.A. Albums So Far This Year

Julia Holter
Julia Holter

[Editor's note: Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. Be sure to also check out the archives.]

We are impeccable thieves, transplanting artists both from burgs bearing but a single Waffle House and metropolises where they measure the cold in Celsius. Biggie credited the centripetal pull of L.A. to the weather, the women and the weed. The ability to work was implied. The city has been a music industry magnet since The Byrds baited American teens with "So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." Out of that group's five original members, only David Crosby grew up here.

What's new is the subterranean sprawl. Scenes once were easily straitjacketed to Central Avenue, the canyons, the Sunset trip or Whittier Boulevard. Musicians usually recorded for one of a half-dozen labels. If geography is the chief constant, there are now almost as many underground venues, home studios and indie imprints as there are Instagram accounts. No longer are we limited to metaphors about being eight miles high. We can see the fuel firsthand, stained in "Rise" tint.

Of the artists below, only two (Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q) were born in the 213. The rest came after the area codes splintered and live in Topanga, Echo Park, Silver Lake, South L.A., Eagle Rock and elsewhere. They make blue rag-waving gangsta rap and psychedelic garage rock, art-rap lampoons about asymmetrical hipster haircuts and Kraut-rock pop jams. Some make dub reggae, some European house, and others search for the modern sound of soul.

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All records were released on independent labels, and their inclusion is colored by my inherent biases (age, gender, zodiac sign, aversion to anything on the Shahs of Sunset soundtrack).

If you're reading this online, you may already be familiar with them. If you're wise enough to steer clear of the Internet echo chamber, it may read as a litany of the obscure. Don't worry about that -- you don't need me to tell you about Maroon 5's latest malfeasance.

With six months evaporated, these are my favorite local records of 2012, in alphabetical order and imperfect haiku.

Ab-Soul, Control System (Top Dawg)

The seat of the soul

Spied through weed smoke and dark shades

Hail black lip bastard

Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos, Icon Give Thanks (Rvng Intl.)

Dub cruise disciples

Commune with Kingston legends

True story Jah rules

Tomas Barfod, The Salton Sea (Friends of Friends)

Melancholy Dane

Makes house in Silver Lake house

Party in the USA

 

Open Mike Eagle, 4NML Hsptl (Four Four)

The Cuckoo's nest opens

Free membership for artists

Bad food but good jokes

Julia Holter, Ekstasis (Rvng Intl.)

Myth via vocoder

Joni Mitchell never lies

Nor does her heir apparent

Nite Jewel, One Second of Love (Secretly Canadian)

Kraftwerk jams with SWV

Heidegger hangs with Mary J

Real love is not weak

Peaking Lights, Lucifer (Mexican Summer)

Madison to L.A.

Couple makes angelic dub

Speak of the devil

Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions (Top Dawg)

Hoover Crip ascends

But keeps hands tight on the wheel

Figg gets the money

Ty Segall & White Fence, Hair (Drag City)

Garage punks unite

Write new Easy Rider anthems

Welcome to jam rock

Nick Waterhouse, Time's All Gone (Innovative Leisure)

Soul man out of time

Muscle Shoals will never die

Happy Days are here

See also:

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Rap Albums Of All Time: The Complete List

Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List

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