Lots of shows in recent days. The Milk Carton Kids recently took the stage at Amoeba Hollywood, giving fans a healthy dose of their acoustic, Simon & Garfunkel-influenced story-folk. Though still relatively unknown, the band has cultivated a healthy following for the Eagle Rock-based duo, garnering fans of like-minded L.A. venues Largo and Hotel Cafe. Their soft, mellowed-out sound contrasts with their comedic, center-stage personalities, inviting you to come sit by their campfire and hear them spin a yarn and sing a tune. Milk Carton Kid Joey Ryan regaled the audience with the history of the ampersand, much to the delight of a few fawning girls in the front, proving that a cute guy with a guitar can literally discuss typographical history and young girls will swoon. They sang the countryish “Honey Honey,” with Kenneth Pattengale really going to town on his miniature acoustic guitar, with the top of it wrapped in a cloth napkin for maximum intimacy. Ryan bragged about his quick fingerpicking and delivered it with finesse on a bluegrass-colored song. He said the band grew up shopping for records at Amoeba, and it was now “quite an honor” to be playing at the store. Pattengale mocked Ryan’s consistently deadpan tone, saying, “Guys, I’m so f*ckin’ thrilled.” “That’s not a good impression,” Ryan quipped back. They sang a few morose tunes to close the set, joking that everyone thinks they’re from Michigan because of their melancholy folk sound. They’ll be at the Largo Theater May 8 and 9. See more picture of their performance here.
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!
Julia Holter – “Gold Dust Woman”
Julia Holter, who put out this year’s excellent Ekstasis album, sure to be on my top albums of the year list, has contributed a track to Rumours revisited, a Fleetwood Mac cover album (not to be confused with this one, also released this year) with current artists taking on songs from that iconic album. The album, put out with the current Mojo magazine, also includes tracks by Liars, Yeasayer and the Besnard Lakes. (What are the Besnard Lakes up to, anyway? I love those guys.) This cover remains faithful to the original by maintaining and amplifying the scary space in Stevie Nicks’ version, though Holter’s delivery is more slightly detached than Nicks’ sultry vocal. Still, it’s on the warmer end of Holter’s songs, which can range from icy and otherworldly to coy, playful art-pop. Anyone remember the Hole cover of this song (for The Crow 2 soundtrack!) where she messes up the lyric and goes “one less challeoonge” all crazy? Loved that. Find Mojo at Amoeba Hollywood. (See photos of Julia Holter's performance live at Amoeba Hollywood.)
Like some unholy marriage between Black Flag and The Cramps, FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer” is pure aural fuck — “I DRINK CHEAP BEER SO WHAT FUCK YOU.” There’s more subtlety there within than that would imply — sweet little surf riffs, excellent solo, smart dynamics, perfect production without being self-consciously lo-fi. But the thing the L.A. band offers uniquely is that clear-cut dynamite party chorus, a rarity in the days of reverb-awash garage rock. FIDLAR’s deubt album will be released in early 2013 on Mom & Pop.
SFV Acid – “Ashland Slumber”
This nasty bit of indie electro-house comes from L.A.’s SFV Acid, who sound like they’re coming into their own with this latest slab of sublimely grimey dance music. “Ashland Slumber” sounds a bit like Detroit house blasted out of shitty speakers and garnering extra feedback and reverb in the process. I love how lush the synths are vs. the brutality of the beats. Harsh, weird fun stuff. The Neighborhood Archives EP is due Oct. 15 on UNO.
Vex Ruffin – “Take It”
Gnarly, nasty one-man-band punk out of L.A. Vex Ruffin’s “Take It” rides its bone-simple riff and drum machine (I think? It might as well be.) to great heights on Ruffin’s balls to the wall vocal. It’s kind of the punk inverse of Dirty Beaches’ one-main rockabilly noir. His debut LP is due next year on Stones Throw.