No one got us the crystal ball on our Amazon wish list for Christmas, and our Magic 8-Ball has terrible taste in music — so we still can't predict the future here at L.A. Weekly. But hey, we know talent when see it, and these 10 artists are flush with it. Maybe none will be headlining Coachella 2018 but by the time you finish reading this list, we bet at least one will be your new obsession.
Welcome to the L.A. music scene circa 2017. At least the future's looking somewhat bright.
Last year, Robert Tilden traded in his former band name for something more succinct. And thus BOYO rose from the ashes of what was once Bobby T. and the Slackers. Though Tilden held onto his prior project’s fuzz and Danger Collective affiliation, BOYO take strides away from the psych-pop pigeonhole with their latest EP. Machines shines through its melodies, which sound fit for Elliott Smith's From a Basement on the Hill. Psych-rock deserves a little tenderness, anyway. BOYO may be one of L.A.’s busiest bands, having graced DIY spaces, a college campus and a sprawling backyard below the 5 all in a year’s work. —Cory Lomberg
Def Sound’s defining characteristic may be his impulsivity. Take 2015’s Kings of Neon. On the one hand, it’s an exercise in self-documentation, rolling up all the rapper-producer’s sweetest, horniest, most thoughtful impulses into one jagged work. On the other, it’s a showcase of his own omnivorous nature, skipping from manic footwork to worldly R&B to gothic Yeezus rap. At Def's best, though, his music is entirely alien, a product of all those conflicting impulses — for instance, the metallic-tasting “I Need You 2 Know.” He has a follow-up record slated for March of this year. —Chris Kissel
Moving to L.A. represented a creative rebirth for Americana singer-songwriter Elijah Ocean. Originally from Maine, Ocean spent several years toiling in bleak, un-country Brooklyn before decamping two years ago to Southern California, home of Merle, Buck and Gram. He’s since made the rounds at L.A. country showcases such as Grand Ole Echo and Honky Tonk Sundays, bringing with him a comfy sound that recalls late-’60s Laurel Canyon country folk, finding newfound inspiration in the swath of land that spans from Needles to Malibu. With a record due out in 2017, Ocean is primed to become recognized as one of L.A.’s most dedicated Americana songwriters. —Chris Kissel
Sophie Negrini launched her power-pop project Janelane while she was still a Pasadena high school student. Now a wise old college student and on her third lineup (because high schoolers graduate and move away and stuff), she's already a witty songwriter with a gift for earworm melodies and a precociously poised live performer. With a voice and musical sensibility that resemble the best parts of punk-pop's two most talented Williams (Paramore's Hayley and Wavves' Nathan), Negrini clearly has the talent to take Janelane to the next level, no matter what lineup she's playing with. (Full disclosure: I am close friends with the parents of former Janelane guitarist Jake Levy. Secondary disclosure: Yes, I am old.) —Andy Hermann
With his debut full-length, Rust, released last October on the excellent Proximal label, L.A. native Lawrence Grey has created the perfect dystopian soundtrack for your next dank, sweaty warehouse party — especially since, in a post–Ghost Ship world, that warehouse might have to be way, way off the grid. Grey created this collection of blown-speaker techno by recording to reel-to-reel tape, then soaking those tapes in starch and leaving them to fester, decay and corrode for the weeks in the L.A. sun. The damaged results pulse like some malformed but bioluminescent living creature, both grotesque and oddly, compellingly beautiful. And, not incidentally, even Rust's most smeared and distorted moments are often highly danceable. —Andy Hermann
The beat scene has always been somewhat of a boys club. It has, however, championed women with greater enthusiasm than other spheres of electronic music. Following heralded foremothers Tokimonsta and Astronautica, Linafornia is next in that growing lineage. The Leimert Park native’s 2016 album, Yung (Dome of Doom), was the most auspicious debut from the beat scene in recent memory. A collage of warm jazz and soul samples backed by cavernous percussion and swirling atmospherics, the beats are somehow equally suited for headphones and the speakers at the Airliner Club. If her stellar set at the Low End Theory Festival last summer is any indication, you’ll see her on many more stages throughout 2017. —Max Bell
Natia is a hybrid in every sense of the word. The drug-addled exuberance of Danny Brown, Wu-Tang’s goriest imagery, early Eminem levels of lyricism, perversion and poverty — he weds them all with a distinctly West Coast sense of melody. As a result, the 24-year-old Inglewood native has garnered a devoted local following. Signed to nascent L.A. label POW (run by L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss), he plans to release his debut album, 10K Hours, later this year. For now, there’s a back catalog of mixtapes and EPs (Something 4 Nothing, Newport Diaries) on his SoundCloud that merit several listens. —Max Bell
The first thing that strikes you about Pastel Felt’s November release, Charming Lait, is how aggressively lo-fi it is, with layers of shuddering guitars, vocals buried low in the mix and thick harmonies ensconced in reverb. But it’s that analog-noise quality that makes the music so arresting, like the vibrations of some long-gone girl group echoing down a hallway, effervescence dredged through decades of feedback. Tara Milch's songs are challenging, too, never wedded too much to the surf-meets-noise template. Pastel Felt were long stalwarts of the Pehrspace scene (R.I.P.) but have since graduated to gigs at the Echo. We’re excited to see what 2017 has in store for them. —Chris Kissel
The Tracks’ first single, “Go Out Tonight,” is my “Born to Run.” My mother first heard the Springsteen staple in a Northern New Jersey den and was stirred by The Boss’ command to leave her town — and its signature scent of Oreos wafting from the Nabisco factory — behind. Though I don’t have to linger by the radio to hear The Tracks again, I impatiently await their debut record. The Boyle Heights–based band is not new; this much is clear from one performance, with Venancio Bermudez’s leather jacket discarded stageside or Jesiel Higuera’s face tucked under a Dodgers hat, all focus on his guitar. Its members have been developing their sound for years, and it’s an epic one. —Cory Lomberg
No emo revival is complete without mention of Upset, a dream team assembled from former members of Hole, Vivian Girls, Slutever and the band of Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. The ghosts of those bands past coalesce to build the unrelenting pace of ’76, Upset’s eight-song 10-inch. Each member exhibits the understanding that both harmonies and humor can epitomize punk, if administered properly. They all have enough experience to know that you can’t have a good time if you’re taking yourself too seriously — hence the batch of merchandise sold on their last tour: shirts with the band’s name stylized as the La Croix and Thrasher logos. —Cory Lomberg