Heron Oblivion's axes clash like fighting wolves, tangling like the brambles and branches that adorn the album cover. Keeping all this Crazy Horse-style madness reined in are the heart-stopping vocals of Meg Baird of Espers. Her voice can simmer low and quavering like a classic British folk singer and then rise to seemingly unattainable heights on songs like the climactic "Your Hollows." The Bay Area band is a supergroup of sorts, with members of psych-rock groups like Comets on Fire and Six Organs of Admittance. I'm sure it's even better live, so don't miss a chance to see them, including today at Amoeba SF at 6 p.m. Read my interview with the band here.
Last weekly roundup of the year! Check back in with us next year for more coverage of local music from L.A. and the Bay Area.
KING – “Hey (Extended Mix)”
This gorgeous cosmic R&B love ballad comes from L.A.’s KING. The track gently unfurls its breathy vocals and layered synths so gracefully, you almost miss the nuance that makes the song something special. It’s reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s best, turning a simple sentiment like “You were made for me, and I, you,” from trite to transcendent. The song first appeared on their 2011 EP The Story, which Pitchfork points out got them the attention of none other than Prince. This expanded version will be on their debut LP, We Are KING, which is due in February.
Rangda – “To Melt the Moon”
Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance, Sir Richard Bishop of Sun City Girls and Six Organs contributor Chris Corsano come together to craft a serpentine, snarling guitar track called “To Melt the Moon.” Chasny’s psych notes and Bishop’s African-influenced playing dance with Corsano’s steady 5/4 beat like a North African surf-rock track. Rangda’s The Heretic’s Bargain is due Feb. 19 on Drag City. Stream below via Pitchfork.
La Sera – Music For Listening To Teaser
Power-pop goddess Katy Goodman is coming out with a new one called Music For Listening To, due March from Polyvinyl. The album seems to follow suit with 2014’s excellent, punk-fueled Hour of the Dawn, recorded in just eight days by none other than Ryan Adams (in between his stints at this year’s Coachella), along with guitarist Todd "Totally Tod" Wisenbaker with drummer Nate Lotz. Read more via Rollingstone, and check out an album teaser below.
Matt Kivel – “Janus”
L.A.-based singer/songwriter Matt Kivel has a new album on the way called Janus, out Feb. 5 on Driftless. His third album finds Kivel teaming with Alasdair Roberts on production duties to record in Roberts’ native Glasgow with local musicians. “Janus” is delicately rendered with Kivel’s creaking voice, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and light piano and string accompaniment, yet its warm shades mask dark lyrics, as Kivel sings at one point, “I feel nothing close to comfort in you.” Listen via Stereogum.
From L.A. and S.F.’s garage rock scenes to Compton’s blossoming rap artists, California artists represented well in 2014. Here are 25 of our favorites from the year, in alphabetical order.
On Worship the Sun, L.A.’s Allah-Las get some dirt on their boots by scuzzing up their sunny surf-garage sound with some rattling guitar solos, stonery grooves (“Buffalo Nickel”) and head-spinning psych-rock tunes (“501-405”).
Cherry Glazerr had the debut record of the year for Burger Records, moving unstoppably on the strength of its garage riffs and singer/guitarist Clementine Creevy’s teenage caterwaul.
Katy Goodman went from bassist/back up vocalist of indie rock band Vivian Girls to lead vocalist/front woman of the dream-pop band La Sera. Three albums in and Goodman shows no signs of slowing down. In 2011 (while still gigging with Vivian Girls) Goodman moved back home for two weeks, bought a guitar, a tiny practice amp, and wrote some songs. A few weeks later, she realized she had "sort of written an album by accident." The result was a solid 12 track self titled record produced by longtime friend and Vivian Girls' video director, Brady Hall. In 2012, La Sera returned with Sees The Light (Hardly Art) and critics took note of Goodman's progress in songwriting and vocal delivery. Buzz around La Sera started to grow and hasn't stopped since.
La Sera now completes the trilogy with Hour of The Dawn (Hardly Art, 2014). The new record finds Todd Wisenbaker handling producer and guitar duties. Expect to hear songs that are faster, louder, and more aggresive than previous releases with lots of great catchy vocal lines. La Sera keeps evolving and Goodman is quickly becoming a master of her craft, creating songs that resonate with fans of Vivian Girls and new found La Sera die hards. Hour of The Dawn is a testament to Goodman's star power and her steady rise to the mountain tops of rock & roll!