We all wear our hearts on our sleeves here at Radio Free Silver Lake, so it's easy to guess that our favorite albums of the year were the ones we spared little or no hyperbole for in 2011.
But to save you time digging back through earlier posts, we’ve compiled a list of what we consider the best releases by LA bands over the last twelve months.
We’re still listening to post punk act Manhattan Murder Mystery’s self-titled release like it came out just yesterday. If we could only convince people to check out one album from an LA act in 2011, this would be it.
"Smoky Mountain" is probably the album's brightest gem, full of lyrics that are smart, funny, and catchy and equal parts art and completely punk rock at once -- but lines from "Trailer Trash," "I Always Think About Dyin'," and "Ambulance" get stuck in your head for weeks or months.
2) Just An Animal Lonely Hunter (Self-Released)
The members of Red Cortez emerged from several months of woodshedding with a new sound and a new project rechristening themselves Just An Animal. Already a force to be reckoned with as a live band the foursome closed out 2011 with danceable upbeat record that is catchy as hell.
With this new album, “dynamic mope rock” group One Trick Pony delivered a recorded release as impressive and varied as their fantastic live performances. Opening tracks "Knives so Sharp" and "Get Over Yourself" hook from the start, while songs "Diagonal Waves" and "Crepe Hangers" break your heart in the most upbeat possible way and "Andrew Jackson" is worth the trip for its chorus alone.
4) The Lonely Wild Dead End (Self-Released)
This band gave some of the best live performances we saw all of this year and this album of five songs shows off their range and uncanny abilities as indie-pop songwriters. What's even more encouraging is that in concert they perform more songs that aren't here and they are every bit as good as these five. Their superb vocal work is beautifully recorded here.
5) Rademacher Babyhawk, Part I of III (Self-Released)
This tale of a fictitious rock band almost “making it” in the Silver Lake scene and beyond quickly became habit-forming... The rich detail in the lyrics has a real ring of authenticity and wonderful melodies reveal a deep appreciation of classic rock styles. When we think "summer of 2011,” we think of this album.
Indie act The Californian makes music that combines crooning, Sergio Leone-style western film soundtracks, and Dick Dale surf rock with decidedly crush-worthy results. You’d be hard pressed to find a song on their debut that’s anything less than absolutely charming.
7) The Western States Motel Freeway Freeway Riverbed (Self-Released)
WSM lead Carl Jordan is a virtual maestro at weaving surprisingly complex arrangements with just a handful of tools. Evoking a strong American Southwestern atmosphere, the tales of life on the road offer more plain-spoken, unpretentious observations aided by the lilting and very catchy melodies. And seeing the songs brought to life by a full band at their November On The Rox residency showed off the material's durability.
8) Escalator Hill Poplar Avenue (Self-Released)
If more music critics listened to albums three or five or twenty times before writing, this album would be on everyone's Best Of list. Poplar Avenue is about things revealed slowly, the sweetness hidden by bluster, the strength of the ensemble behind a frontman.
9) Correatown Pleiades (Self-Released)
Angela Correa lives on top of a steep hill in Mt. Washington that has a panoramic view (metaphorically at least) of the musical landscape of all of Los Angeles. From this vantage point Correatown takes in everything and recombines these styles with Correa's own perspective as a songwriter to create a brilliant amalgam. There are songs on this record more playful pop than anything coming out of Silver Lake in a long time.
10) A Tie for:
One AM Radio Heaven Is Attached by a Slender Thread (Dangerbird)
Every track on electronic pop group One AM Radio’s latest release sounds like a single. There’s no filler whatsoever. The songs are widely varied, but are catchy as hell to a man and either hummable or danceable. Synth pop that melts the mopeyist heart.
Marvelous Toy Moving EP (Self-Released)
The sniff test on this EP (a sneak peek of their next album due next in January) was when it was go-to getting ready in the morning music every day of a particularly tough work week. If you say that Jordan Hudock is one of the best front men in LA, while true, it shortchanges the rest of his band. Seemingly without effort they create the musical structure that lets loose their band leader.
Photo by Laurie Scavo