This year has been a particularly fantastic year for Los Angeles' indie labels. Local labels have dropped some fine records and supported L.A. based artists who jumped from the local level to national attention and pushed the boundaries of what music will sound like in 2011. From Best Coast to Fitz and the Tantrums to Flying Lotus, our city has put out sounds that are as diverse as its populace. Here are L.A.'s finest indie record labels and a look back at what they accomplished in 2010:
Manimal has the Midas touch when it comes to L.A. bands. Bands like Rainbow Arabia, Warpaint, and Hecuba were all vaulted to larger audiences via this Los Angeles based label. In 2010, Manimal provided a mind-bending alternative to conventional music with the electro-dance-party crew We Are the World (Lady Gaga's favorite new band--for reals) and on We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie, Manimal amassed an album of Bowie covers by Duran Duran, A Place To Bury Strangers, Vivian Girls, and more.
9. Southern Lord
L.A.'s Southern Lord Records has consistently bludgeoned the boundaries of metal with a battering ram made of bones with bits of chunky flesh still dangling from it. The label headed by Sunn 0)))'s Greg Anderson specializes in stoner and drone metal, but also has explored some innovative business models in this uncertain age for the music racket. One of their most interesting features is a vinyl subscription service which for one price lands a series of exclusive LPs from the darkest members of their metal cadre including Yob, Sunn 0))) and Pelican. After each pressing, a new record will end up in your mailbox. It's like a podcast, minus the iPod.
8. Innovative Leisure
This Highland Park label run by Stones Throw's Nate Nelson has staked a claim on some of the sure-to-be-buzzed-about musicians of 2011. With the SF-based space-bass duo Lazer Sword, grimy-but-smooth soul master (and LA Weekly's hottest male musician of the year!) Hanni El Khatib on their roster, Innovative Leisure are setting trends that we haven't even been named yet.
7. Stones Throw Records
Over Stones Throw Records' long history of archiving originals and supporting artists unified by ambitious vision, 2010 proved to be a stellar year. The esteemed label captured the paradox of Dam-Funk's retro-futuristic sound on his debut, Toeachizown and Aloe Blacc's soulful swing on Good Things. Most labels don't have the stamina or consistency to keep churning out great product year after year, but Stones Throw isn't just another label. If a record has that Stones Throw stamp on it, expect only the best.
6. Now Again
Something like Stones Throw's bohemian chic relative from a different continent, Now Again is a boutique label with a global vision. This year, Now Again brought us sounds from across the world, unveiling the sounds of Rikki Ililonga, the king of psych rock in Southern Africa, and reintroduced the world to Brazilian actor and singer Seu Jorge. The Life Aquatic crooner assembled a band called Almaz, for a record that mixes Bossa Nova, Kraut rock, and some folk into a rich soup of worldly sounds.
5. Friends of Friends
Just when you though you knew everything about L.A.'s beat music scene, Friends of Friends mixes it up. The label began as a series of splits from L.A. electronic luminaries like Daedelus and the frenetic Jogger, then expanded to release exciting experiments from bass-quaking wunderkind Shlohmo and sonic astronaut Ernest Gonzalez. The best thing about FoF is that the label encourages collaboration. Remixing is standard at FoF and so is charity, yesterday they sent out a free album of local and national producers who gave some classic pop songs the royal remix treatment.
4. White Iris
As the record label counterpart to the musical collective/ recording studio Black Iris, White Iris is headed by Lewis Pesacov, the guitarist/producer behind Foreign Born and Fool's Gold. White Iris has cultivated limited edition releases from Best Coast, polyglot partiers Fool's Gold, and Local Natives. For the brand-spanking new swagger-rockers Sweaters, White Iris even paired up with local publisher Echo Park Books for book-and-single combo. Reading, writing, and rhythms; all the essentials are covered.
The rock label located smack in the heart of Sunset Junction has nurtured the indie sensibilities of the east-ish side since 2004. Following the success of Silversun Pickups, Sea Wolf, and Division Day in 2009, Dangerbird grew their roster in 2010 to release new LP's from established artists like Hot Hot Heat and Minus the Bear, while cultivating up-and-coming acts like soulsters Fitz & the Tantrums.
2. Alpha Pup Records
Alpha Pup are the Medicis of the Low End Theory scene. The label run by Daddy Kev and his wife Danyell Jariel have been the spark that kept L.A.'s burgeoning beat music scene burning throughout 2010. This year they've been responsible for dropping Nosaj Thing's Drift Remixed album as well as beatmaster Take's Only Mountain, which served up hazy, crackling beats with otherworldly atmospherics.
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And LA's most exciting indie label of 2010 is...
2010 was the year of Flying Lotus. The fall out from his game-changing nuclear hot release Cosmogramma redefined the landscape of music yet to come. FlyLo's Brainfeeder Label (a content partner of Alpha Pup) also dominated this year with Lorn's debut release, Daedelus' avant-electro Righteous Fists of Harmony, and the beautiful debut album of the ethereal knob-turner, skater and painter Teebs. Brainfeeder will kick off 2011 with the much-anticipated vinyl pressing of French audio-auteur Mr. Oizo's rare album, Moustache (Half a Scissor).