4
Best of L.A. Music Winners: EclecticEXPAND
Courtesy of Kehlani

Best of L.A. Music Winners: Eclectic

Best R&B Act
"Nights Like This" by Kehlani featuring Ty Dolla $ign might just serve as the soundtrack to all your warm summer evenings this year. The Bay Area native recently unleashed her While We Wait mixtape, which evidently is meant to hold over fans until her forthcoming album. In addition, the R&B singer recently discovered motherhood, with her baby girl Adeya her most treasured gift on Earth thus far. The emotions and vulnerability Lani wears in her music and lyrics is felt all across the world, and it's even greater through her distinctively raspy yet incredibly soothing vocals. Honestly, the whole project slaps. —Shirley Ju

Avalon OmegaEXPAND
Avalon Omega
Jonathan Reyna

Best Latina Electro-Pop
Although this diminutive dynamo has been MIA for a spell, she has recently resurfaced, fully charged and jam-packed with her singular brand of jolting musical voltage. Avalon Omega's potent, playful electro-pop has a fabulously volcanic, super-charged quality that launches her audience into a gleaming, sequin-spangled altitude where heavy gauge beats and celestial bubblegum melodics combine with intoxicating effect. Her distinctive visual style and sound are equally loaded with offbeat, funky dazzle and tremendously unpredictable sonic thrills. Simple yet infused with complex emotional expression, it's a deliciously volatile mixture whose originality and impact really propel Omega into her own electromagnetic realm. —Jonny Whiteside

Continue Reading
Don Heffington
Don Heffington
Laura Heffington

Best Avant-Folk
Don Heffington is known as the drummer of a thousand sessions behind names like Dylan and Emmylou. In 2014, he released his first solo album, Gloryland. Fronting what sounds like a Salvation Army band before they sobered up, it's a collection of folk song laments (or lamentable folk songs) from the perspective of L.A.'s losers. He followed that with 2015's Contemporary Abstractions in Folk Song and Dance, recorded with lead guitarist Tim Young and upright bassist Sebastian Steinberg. That trio plus guests have been packing local clubs like downtown's Love Song bar, wowing 'em with "John Coltrane on the Jukebox" and the Tom Waits co-written "Seeds on Hard Ground," blending Don's wry spoken/sung delivery with mirthful melody and joyful noise. —Michael Simmons

I See Hawks in L.A.EXPAND
I See Hawks in L.A.
Rance Pounder

Best Country Group
I See Hawks in L.A. are a house band of the hippie diaspora. Twenty years and eight albums on (with a ninth en route), the country-rock quartet has supplied pot anthems ("Humboldt"), political profiles in courage ("Byrd From West Virginia") and ecological laments (theme song "I See Hawks in L.A."). Baritone lead singer Rob Waller and virtuosic string-slinger Paul Lacques scribe these literate, pointed contemporary classics, while drummer Victoria Jacobs contributed the loopy hoot "My Parka Saved Me." With bassist Paul Marshall, the front line's close harmony is reminiscent of The Byrds — both flocks being rootsy and psychedelic avian-christened Los Angeles–based freaks. —Michael Simmons

Susie GlazeEXPAND
Susie Glaze
Geoffrey Wade Photography

Best New Folk
The Tennessee-born, Los Angeles–based Susie Glaze is an incomparable vocalist with a gift for subtly mixing serene and severe thematics. As leader of her New Folk Ensemble, the veteran tradition bearer and artistic activist's stated aim is to redefine and fuse the idiom with radically applied new contours. Glaze has enjoyed some critical alliances with major country and folk artists — Roger Miller (with whom she worked on the original run of his Broadway smash hit Big River) and Appalachian folk empress Jean Ritchie, who granted Glaze her explicit legacy blessing. Poised, passionate and with talent to burn, Glaze is a reliably superb musician and singer. —Jonny Whiteside

Best Blues
Chicago-born killer Dizzy Dale Williams slays 'em with a mixture of Otis Rush–level hard blues-guitar slinging and red-hot impassioned vocals that's profoundly informed by a decades-long association with free-jazz supergenius Sun Ra — a stint that began when Williams was just 14. The ability to orbit both of these heavenly bodies — straight-up blues and deep-jazz expression — is one few players can conceive of, let alone pull off, and Williams' stunning facility makes him an in-demand force whose credits include extensive work with everyone from LL Cool J to accro-bop stylist Azar Lawrence. Mesmerizing. —Jonny Whiteside

Dwight TribleEXPAND
Dwight Trible
Courtesy of the artist

Best Jazz Singer
The great jazz singers deliver their goods with a persuasive force and innovation comparable to the heavy horn honkers with whom they create their art — or have to compete with. Whether performing with his own Dwight Trible Ensemble, in his lead singing role with the Pharoah Sanders Quartet or as the vocal director for L.A.'s righteous Horace Tapscott Pan Afrikan Peoples' Arkestra, faith-keeper Dwight Trible has consistently proved he's up for a challenge. His secret — besides one formidable set of baritone chops — is the great joy he derives from pushing the jazz-vocal thing to whole new, unheard heights. That's evidenced on Trible's recent album, The Mothership (Gearbox Records), where the visionary virtuoso leads his flock into novel realms of swinging smarts and ecstatic soul, an improvisational magic aided by ace young lions, including saxman/composer Kamasi Washington. Point is, Trible's got tone and a beautifully idiosyncratic outlook: Mothership's featured single is a cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." —John Payne

Ben BostickEXPAND
Ben Bostick
Courtesy of artist

Best Street Performer
South Carolina-raised outlaw country troubadour Ben Bostick can regularly be found performing on the Santa Monica Pier. You'll know if you've seen him — he's often sitting down, barefooted, pounding out a beat on a rudimentary setup consisting of a kick-pedal attached to the box he's sitting on, a cymbal, plus his guitar. It's all suitably rootsy, and the country music that he specializes in is gloriously authentic. When you want to sit down and gaze at the ocean, he makes for great background sounds. When you want to stare at him, the music makes for great foreground. When you get the chance, stop and check him out. —Brett Callwood

Best Record Store
No surprises here, but the news that the famous Hollywood store will soon be looking for a new location was met with some shock. We love Amoeba Music exactly where it is and we love everything about it. Of course, we'll follow it to the new location — but still. They have the best dollar-CD racks in the world, amazing vinyl, awesome staff, the coolest logo, and amazing in-store signings and performances. Amoeba is an institution. —Brett Callwood

Best Bookstore for Music
The Sunset Strip mainstay Booksoup, a couple of blocks from the Viper Room and Whisky, is a great place to get lost browsing, no matter what type of reading material you're after. That it has a cool music biography section, and excellent author reading events, make it all the more special. Over on Melrose Avenue though, Headline Records is an awesome store for anything punk-related, and they have an excellent selection of obscure punk rock biographies and bibles. These two places are so different we couldn't pick a winner, and that's why we're calling it a tie. —Brett Callwood

Best Musical Instrument Store
The range of instruments on offer is as good as anything in the region, the staff are knowledgable and the place is a cool hang. Moreover, Boulevard Musical Instruments Store offers some really awesome evening concerts and workshops. It's worth going just to look at some of the mint Martin guitars they have in the vault. —Brett Callwood

Best Bar Jukebox
Everything you want from a dive bar is right here in the Burgundy Room — bathrooms covered in stickers, candle lighting, the slightest whiff of pre-ban cigarettes, and a killer jukebox stacked with '50s rock & roll, glitter and glam, and all the punk rock. It's a beloved L.A. haunt, and for good reason. —Brett Callwood

Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish
Darkroom/Interscope

Best Album Art
Billie Eilish has had a big year, playing at the biggest festivals and headlining ever-bigger gigs. Her new album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, just came out in March, and it has seen her earn a bunch more fans. Times are good. And that cover is creepy as hell, in a really good way. A young girl, clad in white, sits on a white bed, one spotlight illuminating her in the darkness. The girl has a fully-crazed grin, and pupil-less eyes. If Eilish wanted to introduce the world to her inner demons, job well and truly done. —Brett Callwood

Best Strip-Club Music
Commercial hip-hop seems to be the soundtrack of choice when it comes strip clubs these days, with the only exception in L.A. being the Seventh Veil (which pays homage to the metal years with obligatory spins of Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls" on the regular). And while we get the salacious simpatico of Cardi B, Post Malone, et al., when it comes twirling the pole and writhing onstage, discerning music lovers require more than basic beats to make it rain. At Jumbo's Clown Room, there's no DJ bro in sight. The ladies themselves choose the sounds they dance to, and they happen to have incredible taste. (A lot of them do burlesque or go-go work, so they know what goes over better than anyone.) On any given night, depending on who's dancing and what mood they're in, you can hear everything from Rage Against the Machine to Bauhaus to The Rolling Stones to David Bowie to Nirvana to Green Day to The Strokes to Iggy Pop to Black Sabbath to Donna Summer to Aretha Franklin to Blondie to Joan Jett to Siouxsie Sioux to The Misfits to Prince to ... you get idea. When it comes to making selections on the bar's infamous jukebox that complement what each dancer puts out onstage (and sets a sexy vibe in the room regardless), Jumbo's girls don't clown around. —Lina Lecaro

Claude FontaineEXPAND
Claude Fontaine
B+

Best Bossa Nova/Yé-Yé/Reggae Chanteuse
When Claude Fontaine made her live debut in front of a packed room of curious onlookers at Zebulon in April, she wasn't exactly alone. For the first part of her short set, she cooed breezy, intoxicating Brazilian-style pop songs with accompaniment by such notable musicians as Fabiano Do Nascimento and Gibi Dos Santos. For the closing portion, the L.A. vocalist shuffled the deck and switched bands so that she backed by legendary reggae hard-hitters Tony Chin and Steel Pulse bassist Ronnie McQueen. Fontaine had such a shy presence, and her whispery voice was so soft and delicate, that it seemed like she might fly off like a hummingbird at any moment. But she purred Latin-pop chansons like "Pretending He Was You" and the sensual reggae reveries "Hot Tears" and "Cry for Another" with a honeyed yé-yé delivery that made her unusual blend of styles inescapably engaging. —Falling James

Miranda Lee RichardsEXPAND
Miranda Lee Richards
Julie Patterson

Best Folk/Roots Artist
A host of local singers strum and sing music that's loosely described as folkie and rootsy, from Leggy Peggy and her bluesy rambles and Shannon Lay with her mesmerizing, cycling songs to Lael Neale's pop acuity, Lucy & La Mer's endearing and disarming folk-pop and Vera Sola's hushed fever dreams. But Miranda Lee Richards has long been a compelling presence, whether on her own or in league with such past musical allies as The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The local singer doesn't always appear in a stripped-down format; her 2017 album, Existential Beast, is a fully realized, full-band arrangement of transcendentally dreamy passages. But when Richards sings with little more than an acoustic guitar, her performances feel more like spiritually convulsive séances and cathartic mystical trances rather than typical folk recitals. —Falling James

Tramp for the LordEXPAND
Tramp for the Lord
Chad K. Salinas

Best Folk/Roots Group
Back in the late 1980s, Doug Cox went by the nom de plume Johnny Holiday and played bass in the hard-living original lineup of The Hangmen. After dropping out of the music scene for awhile, he focused on his sodden, darkly engrossing fine-art paintings. He eventually resurfaced again, playing in Cesar Padilla's White and touring with Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, before forming Tramp for the Lord in 2012. Despite Cox's hard-rocking past, Tramp for the Lord is a more restrained, if deranged, kind of country-folk band. "Take me to the slaughterhouse of love," he begs with a lazy drawl to a loping acoustic guitar. There are very occasional traces of The Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Nikki Sudden in Cox's mournfully haggard delivery. Tramp for the Lord are anything but roots-rock purists — or, for that matter, devout Jesus freaks — but they cobble together some crudely affecting songs that fall uneasily between the cracks of country, folk and punk. —Falling James

Sudan ArchivesEXPAND
Sudan Archives
Ian-Byers Gamber for L.A. Phil

Best World/Experimental Musician
Whether she's wielding her violin like a dagger or using her voice to enchant, Brittney Parks fuses numerous styles into her idiosyncratic music as Sudan Archives. She was one of the more visually striking and musically daring performers at L.A. Phil and Girlschool's recent tribute to Yoko Ono at Disney Hall. Her own music on Sudan Archives' 2018 self-titled album on Stones Throw Records roams confidently across a dizzying variety of landscapes and soundscapes, from traditional West African rhythms to arty electronic beats, all of it intercut with inventive slithers of violin and her malleable, shape-shifting vocals. Such freaky sonic collages as "Goldencity" sometimes sound like world music — from another world. —Falling James

Carla BozulichEXPAND
Carla Bozulich
Jennifer Kitner

Best Avant-Garde Singer
Carla Bozulich has worn a lot of masks in her ongoing musical odyssey, from punk-rock hellion and industrial diva to noisy wraith, art-pop explorer and country-rock revisionist. But with last year's release of Quieter, she emphasized again her open-ended, experimental side. The recording collects a series of ambient interludes that fuse together chamber and contemporary music, dark fairy-tale pop, sprawling sonic vibrations, funereal silences and intimacy, late-night cabaret jazz, and unsettling raw noise as Bozulich interacts with such luminaries as Marc Ribot and Sarah Lipstate. —Falling James

Angelica RockneEXPAND
Angelica Rockne
Dana Trippe

Best Country Singer
Some time ago, Angelica Rockne wandered out of the hills of Nevada City, California, and relocated to Highland Park. The country-rock singer announced her presence to the world with the 2017 release of her album, Queen of San Antonio, following a couple of similarly inviting singles. There's a heavy country influence on such tears- and pedal steel–streaked weepers as "Whiskey Men," but Rockne is no typical cornpone revivalist. A song like "Smoke When It's Raining" is steeped in so much shadowy allure that it feels like a torch ballad that would feel timely and soulful in any era. "Glitter Rags" is an even more enigmatic riddle wrapped up in flickering guitars and Rockne's aching, raw vocals before the whole thing explodes into a psychedelic frenzy driven by Pete Grant's pedal-steel guitar. —Falling James

Best Avant-Garde Concert
With too many great concerts to pick from, we couldn't just highlight one. Creative, unusual contemporary and experimental-music performances cropped up all over town in the past year, from such staid establishments as the Getty Center and Disney Hall to the tops of hillsides in Baldwin Hills and deep inside claustrophobic tunnels inside steep mountains. As part of its centennial season, L.A. Phil has been hosting a plethora of madcap, inventive new-music performances, premiering dozens of new works and saluting the 1960s Fluxus movement with a series of joyfully absurd performance-art events (not to mention the upcoming annual Noon to Midnight marathon of unpredictable music experiments that will occur both inside and outside Disney Hall). The orchestra's brilliantly daft staging of John Cage's Europeras inside a backlot stage at Sony Studios would have been a landmark event in any year, and yet L.A. Phil's presentation of provocative violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Gloria Cheng deconstructing pieces by John Cage and Sofia Gubaidulina at the Getty Center proved anew how exciting new music can be when it's delivered in unusual formats and settings by subversive and committed musicians who don't mind standing in bathtubs and popping balloons while they perform.

L.A. Chamber Orchestra continued to pair traditional classical music pieces with more adventurous new work, especially in its thrilling "Session" series in which such composers as Andrew Norman curated visually fantastic displays of intimate chamber music. Meanwhile, the unholy trinity of Anna Homler, Odeya Nini and Laura Steenberge inspired curious listeners to follow them like dazed apostles along the winding trails of a hillside in Baldwin Hills, with each musician presenting strange music that interacted uniquely with the sunny, sylvan surroundings. Composer Heather Lockie's eerie vocal work Song to Be Performed in a Tunnel in Your Town was an already haunting and meditative piece, but when it was performed in Mueller Tunnel in the San Gabriel Mountains, it took on greater resonance (literally and metaphorically) inside the heart of a stony mountain. There were numerous other exciting avant-garde actions over the past year, including Partch's tribute to its namesake at REDCAT with a fantastic unraveling of the composer's unique instruments. —Falling James

Best Orchestra
L.A. Phil won in this category two years ago, but it's hard to overlook the venerable local orchestra when it's in the midst of celebrating such an ambitious 100th-anniversary season. Alongside all the traditional classical music that L.A. Philharmonic performs so unerringly and attentively from fall through summer, the orchestra has taken it upon itself to commission numerous new pieces, setting a record for the total number of world premieres it has performed in a single season. This focus on new music is radical and kind of risky, but it also helps to underscore that the future of symphonic and chamber music will not be reliant only on the ancient classical past. With so much exciting new music being written and performed today by a diverse array of composers and musicians, the leaders at L.A. Phil recognize that the best way to stay relevant is allowing the growing multitude of voices and expressions to infuse the traditional formulas. —Falling James

Fiona GreyEXPAND
Fiona Grey
Anna Maria Lopez

Best Pop Singer
So many singers today act withdrawn and shy when they perform, but Fiona Grey was born to be onstage. The local singer knows how to put on a show — she's usually decked out in fabulous dresses and other elaborate outfits, and she's often accompanied onstage by a posse of sexy dancers. Not only does Grey want to be a star, the act of trying to become famous often inspires her autobiographical lyrics in such glossy dance pop-songs as "Money" and "Confessions of a Pop Star." And yet, despite Grey's ambition for world domination, she's also a refreshingly self-deprecating and down-to-earth pop goddess who is not afraid to reveal her vulnerable, human side on such moving, confessional anthems as "Girls Like Me." —Falling James

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >