Potty MouthEXPAND
Potty Mouth
Nazrin Massaro

Best of L.A. Music Winners: Rock

Best Punk Band
Whether it's by design or chance — or the result of a seismic shift in collective awareness and anger about centuries of sexism and injustice — many of the best punk bands in Southern California are fronted by women. Women certainly have a lot to be angry about these days, and while not all female musicians are overtly political, such performers as Alice Bag, The Regrettes, Taleen Kali, Go Betty Go, Feels, L.A. Witch, Fuck U Pay Us and Death Valley Girls have energized the local scene and made punk rock relevant again. With such caustic tracks as "Bottom Feeder" and "Liar," from their recent album SNAFU, Potty Mouth have shown that they know how to face down bullies, but what really makes the record stand out are singer-guitarist Abby Weems' relentlessly catchy choruses and bassist Ally Einbinder and drummer Victoria Mandanas' grunge-punk drive. —Falling James

The Dumb FucksEXPAND
The Dumb Fucks
Austin Rawlinson Aguilar

Best Punk Band for Getting a Rise
Dumb Fucks bang it out with vim, verve and a prickly sense of humor that keeps their bumping, high velocity assaults on the tight, high-flying non-cliché side of the oft-tired out punk street. These 20-something miscreants demonstrate a capacity for legitmate songwriting, but it's their attitude and philosophy that's the band's ignition point — one shot through with a derisive glee reminiscent of the extremist disregard proposed and perfected by fabled 'Frisco chaos merchants Flipper. It's a grinding, mindful approach that consistently elevates Dumb Fucks to status as sardonic, self-possessed provocateurs of the first order. —Jonny Whiteside

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Big Dick
Billy Baque

Best-Named Tribute Band
This brilliant, albeit unlikely, homage to rock & roll architect Little Richard is nothing less than sensational. Big Dick is driven by the incendiary pipes of femme fatale shouter Kate Flannery, a rocker of almost startling, fang-bearing intensity. This is very high-quality, very hard-rocking outfit — so much so that Richard's original drummer, the legendary Charles "Keep A-Knockin' " Connor, records and frequently sits in with them — an endorsement from the most high order of celestial rock & roll authority, and a fierce testament to this roaring, badass combo's downright lethal capabilities. —Jonny Whiteside

Double E & Bad BusinessEXPAND
Double E & Bad Business
Jeff Clausen

Best New Country-Rock Band
A brash, kicking, surprisingly original combo, Double E & Bad Business proclaim wild Western truths with emphatic glee and owe nothing to the droning Gram cult or tired Byrds jangle. They're led by the fine, furry vocalist Emil Edinger, and, as their manager/muse Asia Muka succinctly states, Double E & Bad Business "ain't no Silver Lake stunt doubles." Rather, they take an enthusiastic, punk-informed route through the California country jungle, and it's a uniformly rewarding, hit-and-run thrill spree. —Jonny Whiteside

The SlothsEXPAND
The Sloths
McKenna Rummans

Best Sunset Strip Garage Revival
Forged in the roiling Riot on the Sunset Strip era, these teenage troublemakers — the house band at riot flash point Pandora's Box — are now stompin' seniors still gleefully immolating clubs all over the west. The provenance is deliciously twisted: The Sloths broke up in '66, but, 45 years later, guitarist Jeff Briskin hired a private detective to track the band down; with two dead, Briskin, original bassist Michael Rummans and singer Tommy McLoughlin (from Briskin's '67 May Wines project) fired the band up. The results are spectacular — McLoughlin's pipes, pyrotechnics and mid-set prestidigitation are eye-popping, and the Sloths rock ferociously. Truly magnificent. —Jonny Whiteside

Best of L.A. Music Winners: Rock (5)EXPAND

Best Hair-Metal Comeback
Let's face it — it should have all been over a long time ago. The saga of L.A. Guns and the on-again/off-again relationships between the members past and present hasn't only threatened to become laughably ludicrous — it's busted through that door with a shit-eating grin. For years now, there have been two versions of the band touring, heaping shade on each other in the process. Things took a spectacularly bizarre turn when guitarist Tracii Guns and vocalist Phil Lewis buried the hatchet and rejoined forces a couple of years ago, but drummer Steve Riley continued with his own version of the band. No matter — Lewis and Guns are L.A. Guns, and this year they returned with the The Devil You Know album — a hard-hitting, relentless beast of a Hollywood rock & roll record. Never count them out. —Brett Callwood

The Cocks
Somric Castro

Best Trash-Rock Band
Sometimes, the name gives it all away. The Cocks specialize in gay punk anthems played ludicrously fast with zero precision. It's a beautiful thing to behold as is, according to one of their greatest hits, Jerry Cantrell's penis. "Jerry Cantrell is hung like a horse, you know I really really wanna do him of course. My boyfriend wants a date night, he can go to hell, I'm gonna spend my evening blowing Jerry Cantrell." That sort of poetry is inspired, and for that we salute The Cocks. —Brett Callwood

Ezra Furman performing at Music Tastes Good 2018
Ezra Furman performing at Music Tastes Good 2018
Brett Callwood

Best Local Rock Festival
In recent years, this fun local fest has grown to be one of the most exciting in the area, with an incredible lineup of talent year after year. In 2018, the likes of New Order, Broken Social Scene, Joey Bada$$, James Blake, Janelle Monáe, and The Black Angels topped the bill at Music Tastes Good in Long Beach, but the lower end of the lineup was equally exciting as Latin and African music sat alongside gender-blurring singer/songwriter Ezra Furman, Brit mod-punks Shame, avant-garde puppet act Quintron & Miss Pussycat, and local indie-punks Cherry Glazerr. So much to love, and we can't wait to find out what's in store this year. —Brett Callwood

Zig Zags
Dave Black

Best Metal Band
L.A. power trio Zig Zags planted their seeds with a raucous blend of furious skate-punk and stoner garage-rock on their 2014 self-titled debut. The years since have seen the band gradually indulge in heavier thrash-metal riffs throughout their progression. The band's third record — They'll Never Take Us Alive — is the culmination of that development. Lead-off track "Punk Fucking Metal" is appropriately titled, as Zig Zags have now fully embraced the metal, generating buzz-saw thrash riffs that will please those who think that Metallica peaked with their 1983 debut, Kill 'Em All. Band leader Jed Maheu shouts hearty bellows and shreds away on guitar, while drummer Dane Arnold and new bassist Sean Hoffman provide loose garage-rock energy on moments that channel the faster-paced moments of early Black Sabbath. —Jason Roche

Courtesy of Skullsmasher

Best Grindcore Band
For those unfamiliar with the grindcore genre, the greats of the genre are masters of generating short 30- to 60-second bursts of manic metallic chaos, boosted by vocal growls, grunts and squeals, discordant guitars, and blistering blast beat drumming that at times can sound like a malfunctioning lawnmower. Brandon Corsair (guitar/vocals) and Andrew Lee (guitar/bass/vocals) — the duo behind new Los Angeles grindcore act Skullsmasher — are off to a great start, taking the genre's blueprint back to basics and cramming 16 bludgeoning tracks of drum machine-backed musical mayhem into the 15-minute run time of their promising debut album, Rocket Hammer Brain Surgery. Genre pioneers Repulsion mastered this stuff 30 years ago, but Skullsmasher's contributions to the grindcore catalog are well executed, providing maximum fuel for the dizzying violence of a wall-to-wall mosh pit. —Jason Roche

Elizabeth Gore

Best Black-Metal Band
This Monrovia collective eschew the standard nihilism of black metal for headier territory. Instead of the hell below, it's the stars above that fuel the fire of Cipher, the 2018 full-length debut from Imperialist. The quintet take lyrical inspiration from science-fiction themes and real-life horrors of outer space, and shroud it within hard-driving instrumentation that manages a strong balance between blackened brutality and dizzying technicality. The band have been a supporting fixture on local extreme-metal bills since 2013, but the years of hacking away and honing their sound have paid off. The duo of Sergio Soto — who also provides haunting vocal barks — and Bryant Quinones excel at sweeping riffs and galloping guitar work that is inspired by the Scandinavian approach to extreme metal, while bassist Joshua Alvarez and drummer Rod Quinones provide extra-blackened flair to enhance Imperialist's otherworldly approach. —Jason Roche

Savannah Pope
Savannah Pope
Aliice Black

Best Hard-Rock Performer
Savannah Pope has come a long way in just a few short years since she started out singing her "pervy little folk songs" in local coffeehouses. She first unleashed her ferociously wailing pipes and provocative, campy stage presence when she fronted the hard-rock band SpaceCream, but she really revealed her musical range and ambition when she released her first solo album, Atlantis, in April. Pope's vivisection nightmares and torrid apocalypse fantasies were powered by a fully shredding band and infused with mordant wit. "I think of Oscar Wilde as one of the original rock stars," she says. As Pied Piper to a new legion of disaffected freaks and geeks, the divine Ms. Pope could be describing her own music when she marvels about how the Irish playwright "turned things people would make fun of into a really beautiful creative expression — turning weirdness into something cool." —Falling James

Best Power-Pop Band
Like a young dandelion stubbornly pushing its head through a gap in the sidewalk, the local power-pop scene stubbornly continues to thrive even as it's often overlooked in favor of hipper and glossier music genres. This city is lucky that such iconic pop figures as '60s singer-songwriter Evie Sands and The Textones' Carla Olson continue to make great music in easily accessible living room–size venues. Meanwhile, about half of SoCal's underrated pop geniuses can be spied lurking in the backup bands of Brian Wilson and Dave Davies. On top of that, such disparate veterans as Sparks and The Last are direct connections to the 1970s, when the energy of power pop felt like a natural antidote to the increasingly antiseptic pop on the radio. The Cherry Bluestorms top the list this year on the basis of their excellent 2018 album, Whirligig! Co-singers Deborah Gee and Glen Laughlin contrast a snazzy remake of The Beatles' "She Said She Said" with majestic original pop anthems "Seven League Boots" and "Purple Heart Magic." —Falling James

Best Rock Venue
There's always a busy scene at Zebulon, the Frogtown club that's perched just a few dozen yards from the concrete western bank of the (often-imaginary) L.A. River. About half the crowd of young, beautiful and doomed hipsters seemingly hang out only in the bar or smoke out on the patio, but those who venture into Zebulon's back room encounter the most diverse variety of music of any venue in the city. The nightclub's bookings spotlight all the usual indie and punk bands, but they also encompass a lot of art rock, noise, experimental jazz and other avant-garde provocations. A spinoff of the old Brooklyn performance space Zebulon Cafe Concert, the L.A. version is a rare club that goes out of its way to host the plethora of great musicians coming out of Africa today, such as the intense Tuareg guitar hero Mdou Moctar and Malian musician Mamadou Kelly. Zebulon is also the kind of place where the freaky comedian/performance artist Dynasty Handbag regularly gathers her cohort of subversive storytellers and merry pranksters, and where La Collectionneuse often presents free afternoon screenings of classic French films. —Falling James

Laura Jean AndersonEXPAND
Laura Jean Anderson
Kaia D'alora

Best Singer-Songwriter
Laura Jean Anderson has shown that she can be a pretty convincing modern-day sweetheart of the rodeo when she gently casts spells with such dreamy and beguiling country-folk ballads as "Lonesome No More," the title track of her 2018 EP. But the L.A. vocalist also revealed a wider stylistic range on the record when she belted out the defiant pop anthem "Silence Won't Help Me Now," in which Anderson rejected the religious conservatism of her Mormon upbringing in Olympia, Washington, and championed her evolving identity as a woman. She demonstrated her ease with Stax-y soul on "Love You Most," which is about as heartfelt (and heartbreaking) as any romantic plea you'll ever hear. Anderson's big, warm voice imbues her artfully crafted songs with a radiant glow. —Falling James

Frankie & the Witch FingersEXPAND
Frankie & the Witch Fingers
David Evanko

Best Garage/Psychedelic Band
There's a pretty thriving local sub-scene of 1960s-inspired bands. Some are ardently faithful garage-rock revivalists, such as The Creation Factory, whose keyboard-pumped tunes sound like credibly groovy outtakes from Nuggets. Other groups, like the Long Beach trio The Thingz, take the inspiration of garage rock but pump it up with a harder punk-rock approach. Meanwhile, L.A. vocalist Veronica Bianqui mixes hazy traces of entrancing psychedelic pop into her more modern-minded indie rock. All these variations have their own distinct charms. On their 2019 album, ZAM, Frankie & the Witch Fingers plunge headlong into a harder brand of psychedelia that's closer to the free-flowing hippie experimentation of 1969 than to the rigid garage-rock formalism of 1965. A quintessential example is the 9-minute-plus opus "Underneath You," which segues from bluesy freedom rock into a state of throttling punk-rock head-rush before culminating with a lulling and trippy ambience. —Falling James

Flat WormsEXPAND
Flat Worms
Michelle Slater

Best Post-Punk Band
There are a lot of modern groups who are good at approximating the shadowy atmosphere of Joy Division, faking the doom-ridden funk of Gang of Four, mimicking the playful art-reggae insolence of The Slits or affecting the vocal mannerisms of Bauhaus' Peter Murphy. But the best SoCal post-punk bands — such as the provocative declamations of Myriad Slits and her group ModPods, the abrupt sonic jigsaw puzzles of Traps PS, and the harrowing goth-punk eviscerations of past BOLA winners Egrets on Ergot — aren't comforted by or stuck in the past. L.A. trio Flat Worms alternate between urgently manic episodes ("Surreal New Year") and fusillades of art-rock alienation ("Plastic at Home") on their Ty Segall–produced EP Into the Iris, released by Drag City in February. It's all dark and disturbing, smart and unpredictable, and ultimately exhilarating. —Falling James

Taleen KaliEXPAND
Taleen Kali
Michael Haight

Best Indie-Rock/Punk Song
Inspired in part by Maggie Nelson's book of the same title, Taleen Kali's "Bluets" is that rare song whose soaring, euphoric music perfectly aligns with its abstract, mysterious lyrics. Like Nelson, Dum Dum Zine founder Kali wraps herself up and revels in colors, which shimmer around her with fuzzy psychedelic echoes. But "Bluets," from Kali's 2018 album, Soul Songs, isn't some airy, lightweight hippie idyll. Even as her head is in the clouds, the former Tülips singer anchors the track with powerful blows of distorted, ringing guitar, which resound grandly against her wonderstruck vocals. —Falling James

Vera Sola
Vera Sola
Pola Esther

Best Video
Most videos kill the buzz of what people picture in their own minds when listening to a good song, but the striking black-and-white imagery in the video for Vera Sola's "The Colony" — shot in the decrepit, austere wasteland around the Salton Sea — only adds new layers of beauty and mystery to the haunting track from Vera Sola's 2018 album, Shades. The singer floats through the video and over the water in a gauzy white dress, her head shrouded in a long white veil like a ghost bride. Even though Sola is dressed completely in white, there's a funereal, stately moodiness that matches her solemn singing. Directed by Sola, who co-edited the video with director of photography Damon James Duke, "The Colony" contrasts the mourning bride's languid desert rituals with bird's-eye footage of trains, factories, the sea and the ruined landscape to subtly evoke the song's themes about the colonization of the Americas and the destruction of Native American cultures. —Falling James

Mac SabbathEXPAND
Mac Sabbath
Paul Koudounaris

Best Metal Tribute Band
There are virtually as many tribute and cover bands today as there are musicians who still take chances on creating new music. Soon there won't be any original groups left, and the tribute bands will resort to imitating other tribute clones in an anti-evolutionary form of musical cannibalism. Most tribute acts are simply about making you feel good and/or senseless as they dutifully hit some nostalgic sweet spot that helps you overlook the dull reality that you're having an inauthentic, secondhand experience watching variously skilled and variously guileless imposters play dress-up games, decades removed from the primal source. But Mac Sabbath aren't trying to trick you into believing Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne are really across the room at some San Fernando Valley sports bar. Instead, they're elaborately dressed as cute, ominous characters from McDonaldland and singing their own brilliantly cutting lyrics about the joys/horrors of factory farming and mass-produced fast food. That's pretty punk rock for a metal tribute band. —Falling James

Olivia Hemaratanatorn

Best Indie-Pop Band
"I still see you in my dreams every day," Ihui Cherise Wu declares poignantly on Polartropica's uplifting single "Olympia." The local quartet create a fittingly dreamlike landscape for Wu's yearning singing by combining Wu's swirling synthesizer arrangements with Alexander Noice's sparkling guitars to enchanting effect. Thanks to Wu's glittery, spacey stage costumes, Graham Chapman's pulsing bass and drummer Andrew Lessman's effervescent dance-pop beats and samples, Polartropica might seem at first to be merely an escapist — albeit totally fun and fizzy — house band at an intergalactic disco. But Wu's sweetly charming melodies are sometimes wrapped around heavier, more contemplative lyrics about freeing animals from captivity ("Wild Lyfe") and the perils of addiction ("Golden Soul"). Wu's ethereal, unabashedly girlish vocals and candied reveries transport the listener to magical, faraway places, but they can also inspire you to look deeper into your heart. —Falling James

Secret StareEXPAND
Secret Stare
Adam Boren Bennett

Best New Band
Even if you happen to be aware of the musical backgrounds of singer-bassist Erin Emslie (Hunx and His Punx, The Time Flys), drummer Will Rockwell-Scott (Wolfmother, The Mooney Suzuki, Gospelbeach) and guitarist Sharif Dumani (Exploding Flowers, Sex Stains, Alice Bag), it still doesn't prepare you for the curiously strange music they conjure together as Secret Stare. Emslie has usually been hidden in the background as drummer of Hunx and His Punx, but she is an imperiously bewitching presence when's she standing up front as lead singer of Secret Stare. The L.A. band's songs range from Rockwell-Scott's stomping glitter-rock grooves ("Father Thunder") and Dumani's tangled Black Sabbath–style riffage ("Internal Inferno") to psychedelic garage-pop ("Subterranean Brain"), all of it crowned with Emslie's hazily serene vocals. —Falling James


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