End of Year 2009: LA Local Recordings

Album Reviews, Best of Lists, Music

Usual disclaimers… again, I did not seek out local music as well as I used to. I feel guilty for not spending more time panning through the mud at The Smell, Echo Curio, and Pehrspace.

I want to invite all readers to mention their favorite local releases in the comments section. Get the word out for the music you think demanded attention this year.

Favorite EPs from LA-Based Bands in 2009

  • Amateurs If We Dare Win (Listen on Lala)This record makes me tworny. Twang with horns. It is eight songs too short.
  • Blue JungleDemos – I have a collection of Blue Jungle demos I got from a show at The Smell. I don’t know if there is a better collection of Blue Jungle demos or a more official release, but these six tracks are better than any fuzzzy-buzzy girl group music I heard this year. Of course, Blue Jungle has more in common with The Misfits than Black Tambourine.
  • The Henry Clay People – Hear Ya live session (Download Here) Not technically an official release, but this collection of studio live tracks may as well be a live EP. It is, in my opinion, a better set of recordings than any official HCP album. These tracks sound like a show. It’s free for download, too.

  • Manhattan Murder MysterySkull EP ***Los Angeles EP of the Year*** – The Skull EP is Manhattan Murder Mystery’s first legitimate release. It is no less than a textbook “first EP,” detailing exactly who Manhattan Murder Mystery are and why you should care. The post-punk label gets tossed around a lot these days, but this collection of six songs is truly deserving of the designation. This EP is judiciously not overproduced with added effects or background instrumentation; Skull is haunting in the spaces in between sounds. It’s also a faithful reproduction of Manhattan Murder Mystery’s sound. Good lyrics. “Your Mother’s Neck” is a candidate for song of the year.
  • The MonolatorsRuby I’m Changing My Number – Elvis Costello would be proud. Maybe my favorite collection of Monolators recordings.
  • The Parson RedheadsOrangufang – I’m not supposed to like bands like The Parson Redheads, but they are so infectious as to make this tech-obsessed digital kid throw-open the window and sip some tea. This EP is outstanding.
  • Nightmare Air – EP#1 – (Listen on Lala) An end of year gift from 2/5 of Film School + 1. It’s a sick and twisted carnival ride of heavier dream rock, the Mr. Hyde to SSPU’s Dr. Jekyll, maybe?

Favorite Full-Length Records from LA-Based Bands in 2009

  • Avi BuffaloDr. Cornejo – Technically a Long Beach band. Avi Buffalo made several variations of demos available at their shows and through their friends. The version I have is called Dr. Cornejo. I think this version was quickly jettisoned for a different one, but I’m not sure. I just know that I would have paid ten dollars for this outstanding collection of authentic bedroom pop. I suspect many of these songs will be rerecorded for the Sub Pop full length due this year. I suspect they’ll be even better then.
  • CorreatownSpark. Burn. Fade. (Listen on Lala) For the most part I don’t have much use for sultry singing girl records because I already have some great Over the Rhine. But Angela Correa is different. Loved this one.
  • The Happy HollowsSpells ***Los Angeles Album of the Year*** (Listen on Lala) – Energetic, toothy, original, catchy, impossible to put down… Spells is everything a great indie rock record should be. It was almost my overall Album of the Year, too, but I think it’s two songs too long. But everyone I’ve talked to who agrees would drop two different tracks. Read my review, it says it all. (review)
  • Letting Up Despite Great Faults – self titled – Letting Up Despite Great Faults makes The Postal Service sound like Owl City. I know, that’s a terrible way to pitch a record. What I’m trying to say is that electronic, dreamy indie rock can be for grown-ups, too. This record was proof positive.

  • Leslie and the Badgers Roomful of Smoke (Listen on Lala) – Country that isn’t too hip country or too rock radio country. Mostly though, the songwriting is just good.
  • Light FMLet There Be Light FM – Probably a record for engineers and sound nerds more than anything, but I don’t think a meatier album was released all year. My ears are always exhausted by the end of it. The synthrock on this album is dense, too dense and sugar sweet for many. But it suits my tastes and I think Let There Be Light FM is one of the most complete local albums of the year. Light FMier than Light FM.
  • The Littlest VikingLabor and Lust – It’s like a jazz album with noodly indie rock guitars instead of a horn. This record also has some of the best song titles of the year. (“I’m Queer for James Iha” and “Dr. Patch Adams, You Saved My Life!” are favorites.)
  • One Trick PonyFull of Life (Listen on Lala) – Absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful voice, beutiful lyrics, beutiful instrumentation. If I put it on it instantly changes my mood.

  • Silversun PickupsSwoon (Listen on Lala) – This was my first Album of the Year candidate. The ‘Pickups sound has clearly been shifted a little towards mainstream consumption, but it’s a good shift. This record earned the band a Best New Artist Grammy nomination, which says more about the Grammy’s expanded reach than it does about who SSPU have become. It’s still a Top 5 2009 album for me. (review)
  • The SpiresA Way of Seeing (Listen on Lala) – The Spires are a shifty band whose influence changes song to song, though Velvet Underground comparisons are most apt. A Way of Seeing displays The Spires’ music history scholarship, but the album is still strikingly cohesive. This one sneaks-up on you with how good it is; it wasn’t until halfway my first listen I thought “Huh, there’s not going to be a bad track on this thing.” A Way of Seeing is a sexy, romantic listen; a hipper substitute for situations where your friends made fun of you for playing Is This It? again.

My Top 15 Songs From Los Angeles-Based Bands in 2009

  1. Silversun Pickups – “The Royal We”
  2. The Broken Remotes – “Boxer’s Arm”
  3. Avi Buffalo – “What’s In It For Me?”
  4. Parson Redheads – “You Can Leave It”
  5. Nightmare Air – “Shock of the New”
  6. The Henry Clay People – “Randy Where’s the Rest of Me?” (live)
  7. Manhattan Murder “Mystery – “Your Mother’s Neck”
  8. The Happy Hollows – “Faces”
  9. Downtown / Union – “Wake Up Call From The Nexus of Me and You”
  10. One Trick Pony – “Phonebook”
  11. Warpaint – “Billie Holiday”
  12. The Spires – Lowercase
  13. Castledoor – “Shouting at the Mountains”
  14. Correatown – “Green Cotton Dress”
  15. The Monolators – “French TV”