Through my Weekly Roundup series every Thursday (returning in 2014), I listen to a lot of stuff from California-based artists. Here’s a list of 40 great albums that were made by artists based in this great state. There were lots more, so just consider this my own personal list, and let me know if there’s anything I missed!
Epically beautiful seafaring pop from the dude formerly of The Mallard.
The cute electro-pop duo get dancier with freestyle sounds on their second album.
The Odd Future kingpin digs deeper into his defensive and strange world on Wolf.
Ty made like Tyrannosaurus Rex on this stripped-down folk record.
This guy lives at Burger Records and makes delightfully dingey roller-rink rock ‘n’ roll.
Ty Segall takes the drums and spreads some Blue Cheer on this monolithic rock album.
34. I Need You Bad
There are countless wonderful garage bands in the great city of San Francisco and its surrounding areas. Luckily for us, Sonny Smith of Sonny & the Sunsets has done some of the legwork for us, compiling 15 tracks from artists in the area onto the I Need You Bad compilation. Being that it was constructed by someone who’s actually in the scene itself, this is one instance where a compilation of this sort actually lives up to its potential. And it’s a great way to discover new bands from the area. Like “Hot Summer” by Cool Ghouls? Check out their whole album. Love “Thine Eyes” by Pure Bliss? I sure do. Pick up this record for a great record start-to-finish and an easy way to brush up on a bustling scene.
The Abe Vigoda frontman released a seven-song tape this year of exquisite dream pop.
Awesomely mangled guitars intertwine like barbed wire on this album. Check out my interview with the band here.
Asiatic-influenced synth pop with great hooks.
Crystal Antlers (somewhat) clean up nicely on ferocious rock record.
L.A.’s beloved garage band finally drops their debut; mayhem ensues everywhere they go. Check out my interview with the band here.
The legendary L.A. shoegazers return with an album as strong as any in the band’s catalog.
Oakland-based post-punkers Wax Idols put out a fierce debut in the proud vein of Siouxsie & the Banshees.
Ali Koehler, Jenn Prince and Patty Schemel kick out confessional power-pop rigged with tight riffs and heavy beats on their debut. See where they fit into the Vivian Girls Family Tree.
Noise-poppers Wavves released a terrrifc album of ’90s KROQ-influenced pop-rock with Afraid of Heights.
One of the best jangle-pop bands not from New Zealand are The Mantles.
The ever-prolific Bay Area band released another monster rock album with the rollicking Floating Coffin. Can these guys do no wrong?
20. Heavy Hawaii – Goosebumps
San Diego’s Heavy Hawaii make beautifully disorienting dreamy surf-rock on Goosebumps.
We’re lucky to have some of the brightest starts of the burgeoning minimal-wave revivalist genre right here in L.A. Soft Lenses go even deeper, darker and sexier on their second album.
An Object finds the L.A. punk band aging gracefully, no longer going for full-on assault and instead wrangling their ample noise-making capabilities into thoughtful lo-fi compositions.
Local Natives’ sound is, dare I say it, spiritually uplifting on their second album, full of morose, inward-looking lyrics and gorgeous harmonies.
Best Coast capture California sunlight in a bottle on this EP, splitting the difference between their scrappy, beloved debut and its polished follow-up.
New disco can really go either way for me. L.A.’s Classixx nail it on their debut, jamming it full of dancefloor fillers and killer guest spots, especially from LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang on the awesome “All You’re Waiting For.”
McCombs’ latest album takes us through various strains of Americana, from folk to country to indie rock, seamlessly over its double-album length. Check out my interview with him here.
We’re huge fans of jangle pop, the Flying Nun label and the L.A.’s Paisley Underground movement of the ’80s around these parts. L.A.’s Dream Boys take those sounds and make them their own, difficult to do among a crowded field, yet expertly done on their debut album. Check out my interview with them here.
There seems to be a bit of a backlash about this sister trio lately. Why? Do you hate fun? Do you dislike great musicianship and hooky music? I sure don’t.
Brilliant power-pop you couldn’t avoid singing along to if you wanted to.
Their best album yet, a ramshackle space-rock opus.
On her best album yet, Chelsea Wolfe straps together industrial beats, dirgey rockers and piano ballads with ease.
On one of the sweetest returns of the year, Mazzy Star released an immaculate collection of autumnal sounds.
Earl Sweatshirt’s debut record was a long time coming, after his teenage years saw his early debut, only to get held back by boarding school. Thus he enters the game with wisdom beyond his years, releasing one of the best hip-hop albums of 2013 with Doris.
Anyone who enjoys shoegaze/dream pop music should get this album immediately. It’s damn near perfect.
The L.A.-based artist sings over productions by various L.A. underground producers on this brilliant debut mixtape, which serves as both an introduction to Kelela’s brooding R&B and an overview of brilliant up-and-coming producers.
Black metal vocals and stunning guitar landscapes shouldn’t get long this well.
A sound cycle influnced by the musical film Gigi, this album and its creator are one-of-a-kind, exploring new concepts of pop and maintaining both avant-garde and outward-reaching tendencies. Simply one of the best releases of the year.
No one else is making music quite like Rhye. Mysterious and seductive, their sound takes cool jazz and soft-rock tropes and makes them completely cool, given a sophisticated electro-pop makeover. And singer Milosh’s heavenly pipes are one of the greatest discoveries of the year.
See my Top 50 Albums of the Year.
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