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The Ten Best LA Releases of 2009 So Far, Part I: Audacity and Foreign Born

The Ten Best LA Releases of 2009 So Far, Part I: Audacity and Foreign Born

Pouring through the piles and folders of LA music we've received in the past eight months has yielded a huge stack of fantastic records. It's that case every season, of course; critics who say a given year is musically less interesting than others usually reveal more about themselves than the year in music, are either jaded, boring, or merely looking in the wrong places. But is is true that some years we strike a vein that yields diamonds, while other years we're less fortunate.

This year, quality-wise, the various LA music scenes have delivered an inordinate number of stunning records -- and at least a half dozen quality others are on deck for the end of the summer. For the next five days we'll be highlighting the ten that have struck West Coast Sound the hardest. Today: Numbers 10 & 9.

10. Audacity - Power Drowning (Burger Records)

You'd think that this shit would get tiring by now -- raw punk rock that trades in weirdo chords, snare pops and basement screams. You'd have thunk that raw two-minute bursts of denial and rage communicated with guitar and pleading woulda been played out -- "I love you in the morning, but I hate you in the evening" -- but when Audacity lead singer Matt Schmalfeld breaks down and weeps in at the end of "Mode," from Power Drowning, it sounds like they cracked the punk code all by their lonesome in a garage in O.C. It's loud and fast, yes, but what separates this killer record from the rest are the hairpin-turns and loopy stops and starts that arrive out of the blue and transform basic structures into odd Buckminster Fuller-type constructs. Punk? Uh huh. But so much more. Plus, they do a great version of the Weirdos'Dicks' "Hate the Police."

Audacity - Teenage Town (MP3)

9. Foreign Born, Person to Person (Secretly Canadian)

The highly anticipated sophomore album by Foreign Born, Person to Person, is drawing rave reviews, and with good reason. Writes Jeff Weiss in his recent feature on the band and its affiliation with Bloomington, Indiana label Secretly Canadian: "With newfound patrons, the quartet (which stretches to a seven-piece onstage) rented a plush pad with a balcony and a Jacuzzi up in the hills around Mulholland Drive. The result, Person to Person, offers brass-inflected guitar pop that earns that rare distinction of sounding the way Los Angeles feels: full of saffron sun and streaks of sadness, with fluid interplay between the exotic and the occidental -- the blithe buoyancy of a place filled with "vacationing people," as its lead single intimates.

"We were hoping to embody L.A. in the same manner as David Hockney," says Popieluch, a former art student and sometime visual artist. "Music filled with bright colors, masking a darker fa├žade underneath."

Foreign Born - Winter Games (MP3)