Last week as we were sorting through our piles of CDs and accumulated MP3 files, we started to notice how big the stack of recent excellent LA music was. It became apparent that we're in the middle of a pretty great year for Los Angeles releases, and decided to give mid-year props to our faves. With the fall approaching, a whole new batch of notable LA sounds will arrive, so the good news is that our year-end list may look very different than this one.
Yesterday we offered numbers 10 and 9 in the countdown to the proverbial number one; they're listed below. Today, onward:
8. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Up From Below (Fairfax Recordings/Community)
The first time we saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, we were a little baffled. It was their first show, at the Troubadour, and the dozen or so members, a ragtag group of Topanga-lookin' musicians looked way more like Dexy's Midnight Runners than they did Edward Sharpe's/Alex Ebert's other band, Ima Robot. It seemed contrived, honestly, felt as though they'd seen the Arcade Fire writing-on-the-wall and chased the "spirit" of "community." Plus they looked (and look) like some sort of cult.
We've seen them any number of times since then, and each time the skepticism has dropped a notch. Yeah, Edward/Alex gets up there acting like the Chosen One, which is equal parts intriguing/annoying, but at least he fucking does it. Stands up there onstage and sings and sings, and poses and dances and acts like a lead singer should. And the Magnetic Zeros? In the two years they've been together, the eight or so Zeros have gotten so tight and, er, magnetic that they're a joy to watch.
Even better, though, the band's debut, Up From Below, sounds great, with solid songs and way less hokum than the band suggested in those early shows. Expertly produced by Nico Aglietti and Aaron Older with Alex Ebert at Woodrow Hideway beneath their Laurel Canyon compound**, the album is rich, varied, and constantly surprising; handclaps never sounded so great.
7. Frankel - Anonymity is the New Fame (Autumn Tone)
Anonymity is the New Fame, indeed. Frankel, the recording name of one Michael Orendy, is little known in LA (or anywhere). He doesn't really play the gigging game too often, hasn't had a residency (to our knowledge), doesn't pound the pavement flyering for his record release. He just makes beautiful bedroom pop songs that draw from Paul McCartney, Elliott Smith, Emmit Rhodes, Jon Brion and all those other classicists who appreciate the notion of crafting the perfect song.
The obvious connection among aforementioned writers is the love of the piano, and Orendy weaves pretty piano melodies through a cloth of acoustic and electric guitar and drums, draping it all over the structure of the song like a handmade tapestry. Have we mentioned Nick Drake yet? Good, because Frankel just released a cover of the late Irish singer's "Know."
Frankel - Know (MP3)
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Yesterday we listed our first two notables:
10. Audacity - Power Drowning (Burger Records)
9. Foreign Born - Person to Person (Secretly Canadian)
**Editor's note: The original version of this post included an error regarding the production of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' Up from Below. It was produced by Nico Aglietti and Aaron Older with Alex Ebert. We've corrected the information in the above post, and apologize for error.