In all the end of 2012/the world list-making, smaller releases tend to get ignored in favor of the ones everyone knows about. So I decided to do a list, in no particular order, of my favorite albums by L.A. artists this year that were released on small labels or were self-released — and which didn’t get as much press as others. That means no Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Best Coast or Ariel Pink, even though the releases by those people are great and you should listen to them, too. (Read my top 50 albums of 2012 here, with more L.A.-based artists like Miguel and Julia Holter.) All of these are great up-and-coming artists, seek them out!
Kim Free’s minimalist bass playing, ethereal voice and starkly beautiful violin playing come together to cast an entrancing spell on Angel Shadow. See her live to witness her virtuosic looping at work. Check out photos from her Amoeba Hollywood performance here!
Earlier this year, I wrote “Allah-Las feels like some lost treasure dug up from the sand and polished to a perfectly faded sheen.” That still feels accurate, though with all the retroism ascribed to Allah-Las, it should be noted that their sound is fairly hear-and-now, pulling from garage rock, paisley underground and classic pop to create an intoxicating sound.
Dunes’ music is a marvel of goth-tinged post-punk, with singer Stephanie Chan conjuring images of a young Siouxsie. Noctiluca’s ornate guitarwork and skewed melodies promise even greater things to come from Dunes.
Sam Flax – Age Waves (Burger/self-released)
Sam Flax’s lo-fi sound bounces between disco-noir and melodic, spacey garage-pop. The gorgeous “Child of Glass” is the album’s pinnacle. See them play with The Growlers Dec. 28 at the El Rey Theatre; tickets are $19 and are on sale at Amoeba now!
Spaceships – Cool Breeze Over the Mountains (self-released)
Jeremiah Jae – Raw Money Raps (Brainfeeder)
White Arrows’ Mickey Church was born legally blind and regained his vision at age 11. Dry Land is Not a Myth’s sparkling psych-pop sounds like the sudden realization of sight and color. Read more about White Arrows in my interview with them earlier this year.
Not only does this album kinda sorta share its title with a certain blog, it’s a great listen too. Reminds me of this summer, full of aquatic beats, proggy synths and faded, processed vocals. Put this on and pretend winter is over! Even though it technically hasn’t even started yet … :(
Dirt Dress – D.L.V.N.V.N. (Burger/Recess)
Seek out this album by Dirt Dress, who make garagey rock that's more in line with Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers than the Nuggets set. See them play with The Growlers Dec. 28 at the El Rey Theatre; tickets are $19 and are on sale at Amoeba now!
Waterhouse creates the best early ’60s sound this side of Mark Ronson, singing with a fervor inspired by Sam Cooke and Little Richard and producing his album to sound like the great analog-based records of yore.