So, read on as members from the following LA bands sound off on their favorite releases of the year: Walking Sleep, Xu Xu Fang, The Lonely Wild, Smokers in Love, Manhattan Murder Mystery, The Hectors, Everest, The Western States Motel, The Deadly Syndrome, The Spires, Marvelous Toy, Signal Hill, The Californian, Shadow Shadow Shade, The Sweet Hurt, The French Semester, Big Whup, and Pizza!.
Marina and the Diamonds: The Family Jewels
Marina's first album is immediately attention-grabbing, and the sheer pop bombast of songs like "Oh No!" are enough to attract any listener who values fun and memorability. But the Family Jewels isn't just fireworks: it's full of musical dynamism, lyrical nuance, and candid intelligence. It grows more poignant and essential with every listen.
La Roux: La Roux
La Roux (originally released last year in England, but not available here until this year) gave us the best radio single of the summer, "Bulletproof," and a collection of ten more shimmery electro-pop triumphs. Future Islands: In Evening Air Popular "indie" music has become so staid and predictable. All of the bands draw from the same tired set of influences, and they all get the same results. Future Islands' singer Sam Herring, however, turns to an uncommon source - Meatloaf's emotive yelp - for inspiration. That's refreshing.
Beach House - Teen Dream
I spent most of this year discovering or rediscovering old music, so I really haven't gravitated toward what new out right now. But one album I did come across that I found my self revisiting throughout the year is Beach House's Teen Dream. It's a truly beautiful, cohesive record from start to finish. I'm not sure how old Victoria Legrand is, but her voice has a very mature, almost world-weary quality to it. She comands the songs in a way that makes you feel you're collecting little gems of wisdom upon each listen. It keeps me coming back for more.
Cotton Jones - Tall Hours in the Glowstream
The National - High Violet
Those guys know how to get an amazing sound. Their songs make you hurt and ache but at the same time you love every minute of it.
Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
Neil Young - "Le Noise"
Neil Young really can do anything and make it sound great. His 33rd (yes, 33rd) studio album consists of Neil playing guitar and singing, nothing else. No band, just Neil and his guitar. This album a great example of the "less is more" approach to music. "Le Noise" is bare, stripped down, gritty, and beautiful.
Corrine Diner – The Hectors
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
What swirling, gorgeous, lonely hooks. I don't think anyone can touch these guys right now.
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
James Murphy writes the best pop songs. When you break them down, they're annoyingly simple, but that's also why they're so good. He just knows how to hit, and his arrangements are raw and crescendo perfectly.
Lower Dens - Twin-Hand Movement
Think The Kills meets The XX meets early Catpower meets Joy Division. I love Jana Hunter's voice, and the way they let their guitars breathe and weave around each other is hypnotic.
Matthew Teardrop – Manhattan Murder Mystery
The only new music i really got this year was Avi Buffalo and Happy Birthday. Those were pretty good. Also i just heard the new Happy Casualties and that's pretty awesome. Mostly this year i just listened to John Denver and Neil Diamond. It was a hell of a year.
Carl Jordan – The Western States Motel
Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void
Title track is my favorite. An epic.
Shadow Shadow Shade - Shadow Shadow Shade
Not just a shout out to a local band, this album is top-shelf.
Tobacco - Maniac Meat
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
I think it's "Fright Night" that has that lyric "Knock-Knock, on the door three times, when you Knock-Knock-Knock on the door!" Or something like that. That line has been stuck in my head for months.
Waylon Jennings - Honky Tonk Heroes
From a few decades back, but I probably listened to this as much as anything else this year.
Jesse Hoy – The Deadly Syndrome
1) Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter
When Pitchfork first started to freaking out about Deerhunter, I didn't get it. And then I heard their Daytrotter session, and then I started to get it. And then I heard Microcastle and fell in love with it. And then Deerhunter did the ultimate thing in order to get my #1 spot. Not only did they write an incredibly beautiful album, they wrote a song that I really like with a saxophone on it...And I usually don't like saxophones anywhere near my rock n roll.
2) Have One on Me - Joanna Newsom
Either you know exactly what I'm talking about, or you don't.
3) Lisbon - The Walkmen
Great record after great record. And their records are always amazing all the way through.
4) Teen Dream - Beach House
It's really amazing what Katy Perry did on this one. I felt like it was a major departure from her earlier poppier work. She's getting darker and well, getting better. Her voice doesn't even sound the same as it did on the records leading up to Teenage Dream. Oh my god...I just realized that I've been listening to the wrong album all year.
Jason Soda – Everest
Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker
Quickly addicting blend of psych, groove and stoner rock. It's no surprise that people are catching on fast to this band. Also, best record cover of the year in my opinion.
Delta Spirit - History From Below
This record delivers from the gut from start to finish.
Dungen - Skit I Allt
Again, Dungen continues to put out one great record after another. It doesn't seem that they've tackled any strange or different ground in comparison to their previous records but never the less, I'm a sucker for the progressive jazz rock they keep delivering. Production is second to none as well as their design ascetic. As long as they keep dishing it out, I'll keep buying it.
1. The only album I listened to obsessively this year was Sybylle Baier, Colour Green, it came out in 1960 but I think it may have been re-released this year. It’s the best thing I've heard in years. It's reminds me of Syd Barret meets Leonard Cohen.
2. I really liked MGMT's album, I think they are one of the most creative bands out there and they write amazing melodies.
3. I heard some demos from Bell Brigade and I was blown away, it was the best new music I had heard all year.
Aaron Lariviere - Walking Sleep
TOP 5 (Metal) ALBUMS of 2010:
5. Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere
Better than Agalloch!
4. Nails - Unsilent Death
Short, sharp blasts of grindy/doomy hardcore!
3. Dawnbringer - Nucleus
Traditional heavy metal done raw, done right!
2. Hooded Menace - Never Cross the Dead
Death + doom + guitarmonies.
1. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones
When Tom Gabriel Fischer disbanded his "other band" in 2008, no one expected his next project to outperform Celtic Frost... and that's exactly what Triptykon did. Doom metal mixed with Celtic Frost's signature fusion of thrash and black metal, with hints of goth and avant-garde. To borrow a phrase from Mike Huckabee, this shit is "heavier than something really heavy!"
TOP 5 NON-METAL ALBUMS: Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest; The National - High Violet; Spoon - Transference; The Black Angels -Phosphene Dream; and Tame Impala - Innerspeaker.
Riaz Tejani – The French Semester
1) Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me
She had some kind of throat illness that almost killed her voice and then came back and made this treasure. Her timbre is clearly different, more mature, and her songs are some of the most complete art I have experienced in any medium. Her own beauty makes the beauty of the album slightly hard to accept. I'll get over it…
2) The Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt
A talented Swede I listened to in Finland by the sauna.
3) Stornoway, Beachcomber’s Windowsill
Charming, dreamy, timeless, and original. Great label for them too.
Jordan Huddock – Marvelous Toy
1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The guy is a total asshole. This I know. But I can't help loving almost everything he puts out. This album is no exception. Makes me want to be a rap artist... Don't worry, I'm not gonna try.
2. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
I was shocked that so many people DIDN'T think this was a great album. It's fantastic and I love almost every song.
3. MGMT - Congratulations
I like this a lot more than their first one. It's ridiculous. Not one hit on the whole thing. That might be what I love about it.
4. The National - High Violet
This grew on me. After the fifth listen I couldn't stop.
5. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
This also grew on me big time. I had to listen to it a lot but then I fell in love with almost every song.
Bobby Tamkin – Xu Xu Fang
Madlib - Medicine Show 4: 420 Chalice All Stars
Medicine Show 4: 420 Chalice All Stars is the 4th release in Madlib's one-a-month, 12-CD series. Over and hour of incredible classic roots, dark, deep, sticky dub, bouncing ska and true reggae. This record takes you to a special place, and that is the mark of an excellent record.
Autolux - Transit Transit
A perfect mash-up of sonic exploration, forward-thinking creativity, and pop sugar. On Transit Transit, Autolux uniquely combines found sounds, electronic psychedelia, and haunting moods into a full course meal.
Masters of Reality - Pine/Cross Dover
Much like The Beatles, Masters of Reality create a universe wholly unto themselves. Listening to a Masters of Reality album is more akin to a journey than entertainment. Pine/Cross Dover is one of those records where you're not sure where the songs begin and end. Chris Goss is a master at combining traditional classic rock with aural landscapes. And he knows just when to lay off one and embark on the other. Fist shakers and mind bakers.
Massive Attack - Heligoland
This is one of our favorite records of 2010 for the songs, Girl I Love You and Atlas Air alone. There are some duds on Heligoland, but those two songs, in addition to a few others, are stellar. On Girl I Love You, once again, Horace Andy and Massive Attack create their signature electro-dub, rootsy, shanty town like stylings. Atlas Air begins with an understated, simple drum beat that slowly morphs into a groovy, DFA inspired, hi-hat pattern, with heavy, repetitive, synth-driven sounds, and middle eastern percussion.
John Graney – The Californian
1. Dangermouse & Sparklehorse w/ David Lynch - Dark Night Of The Soul
This album makes me bang my head against the wall. It's conception, production, craftsmanship, artistic integrity, and overall badassery is so far above the norm it's mind blowing.
2. The Black Keys - Brothers
I wonder if The Black Keys are my favorite band in the world right now. It's very possible. They groove so freaking hard it's almost perfect. You could bury me alive in the desert and I'd still find a way to shake my ass to this record.
3. Dr. Dog - Shame Shame
The notice these boys are getting now has been such a long long long time coming. This album is a work of art. Shadow People has one of the best arrangements of any recording I've ever heard in my life. I had to pull over and start the song over from the side of the road the first time I heard it.
4. Warpaint - The Fool
Ooooh. man. there is a very specific intangible groove to this whole project that I am having a very very hard time getting out of my system. As cliche as this may sound - I think people are really sick of "indie rock", but I think they don't know what else to look for and listen to. This record... They should look for and listen to this record.
5. The Suburbs: Arcade Fire.
Yeah I know. I won't apologize for being obvious. It's a great record and it deserves its hype.
Jason Bays – The Spires
It’s hard to pick just five but here are some new and old things that I have been digging this year in no particular order:
1. Ariel Pink - Before Today
Dude is a genius.
2. Real Estate - Real Estate
Dreamy non cynical jams about the suburbs. Not an easy thing to do.
3. Jim Sullivan - UFO
M.I.A. LA 60's songwriter - cool production and playing. I think some of the Wrecking Crew session guys are on this. Kinda sounds like Fred Neil. Mysterious back story adds another layer.
4. Pavement - Wowee Zowee
I know this record inside and out but for some reason it's really speaking to me this year. It's so good they wrote a book on it.
5. Erik Satie
Beautiful minimalist Victorian piano.
Seamus Simpson – Smokers in Love
The National – High Violet
Easily the best album of year in my eyes. This band has finally got what it does to a tee. The production alone would make this album amazing, but coupled with the dark lyricism and baritone delivery makes and takes this album on the edge.
Cee-Lo Green – Lady Killer
So while everyone was spending their time fawning over Kayne’s new album (and missing the fact that the guy can-not-rap-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag) Cee-Lo Green just keeps delivering hits. This album takes over a vast expanse of sonic landscapes from smooth R&B to James Bond-esque spy thriller to straight up dance music. All with his tongue in his cheek and a rhythm you can dance to.
The Whigs – In the Dark
This band out of Georgia just makes good music. I hear them labeled “grunge” at times. To me they strike the perfect mix of the power pop of Cheap Trick or Sloan mixed with raw guitar work of early sub-pop (which might account for the grunge tag but I think they meant in a good way) take it as you want.
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
I can’t say enough how much I like this album. “Drunk Girls” was my summer anthem and this album produced more spontaneous living dance parties then any other album in recent years. I think that speaks for itself. Film School - Fission - the great band reinvented themselves in way that didn't seemed contrived and still pushed theire sound forward. i can't say enough how great this album.
Wendy Wang – The Sweet Hurt
Blake Mills - Break Mirrors
The sounds were what first drew me in. Everything is played so well and full of soul. His storytelling is so clever. I get lost in this album.
Little Dragon - Machine Dreams
This record feels amazing. The band and its production is so cool and quirky. The vocalist, Yumiki Nagano, is so effortless and smooth. The songs are not easy and it's incredible how it sounds so seamless.
Ja Prawn - Everybody
This record makes me want to dance non-stop. I forget that I'm mad at traffic when I listen to it. I also have this on vinyl and I think it was done to tape. It's too much fun.
Beach House - Teen Dream
I enjoyed devotion, but it didnt hit me like teen dream. everything about this record, start to finish just resonated with me.
The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme
It's always refreshing to hear good pop music. it's good to know that it still exists. clinging to a scheme saw me through good times, and bad times. and it continues to do so. it's songs are quite effecting, in a nostalgic yet optimistic way.
Hammock - Chasing After Shadows...Living With Ghosts
As someone who plays instrumental music, surprisingly it takes a lot for me to be moved by an entire album especially that in the genre which is more ambient in style. This album however beginning to end is a nice ride of emotions and really makes me think of everything from familiar places to new dream states.
Jamie Cullum - The Pursuit
I am a jazz geek and although this is heavy on the pop side, the songs all have their own flavor, from driving electro-pop about making mixtapes for a girl, to slow and crooning love songs. I am a sap, and that combined with excellent piano work and great session musicianship, makes this disc just jumps out of the speakers for me.
Beach House "10 Mile Stereo"
This was tough.... The album is full of great tunes, so narrowing it down to one was hard. Not sure how this one got the edge, but it did.
The Radio Dept. "Heaven's on Dire"
Hands down The best song of the year. Give me catchy. Give me hooks. And an impetus for introspection. I’m sold.
Holy Fuck - "Stay Lit"
This song is perfectly positioned in the album as the first two songs really build up to this gem. This song gives guaranteed goose bumps as it layers it's way through the same progression. By the end I swear I hear horns and the snare build up's a la Explosions in the Sky really kick in for big finish.
Ray LaMontagne - "God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise"
This song just speaks to simplicity, nostalgia, and damn solid melodies and vocal harmonies.
Photo by Laurie Scavo.