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!
Just about everyone could agree on “Get Lucky” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but there were lots of other great singles and album cuts released this year. Here are 21 you can download from Amoeba.com right now. Pretty sure these could just top out a 120-minute cassette tape, if my high school calculations are correct. Check out my top 50 albums list, too!
Kurt Vile's Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a great, melodically hazy stoner-rock record, but "KV Crimes" hits hard, like a song Tom Petty would kick out in five minutes and decide he was too stoned when he wrote it and leave it on the cutting-room floor for some bullshit like "Free Fallin'." Kurt Vile is like our more enlightened Petty, one who knows that off-the-cuff tracks can be the best.
Weekend’s second album of neo-shoegazing rock ‘n’ roll seems to hit every right note. From the get-go, on “Mirror,” we’re thrust into a dark tunnel of dreamy and distorted sounds, with a killer bass line. While their first album, Sports, was a cool update of Jesus & Mary Chain-style noise, the San Franciscans up the breathy, atmospheric beauty on songs like “Oubilette,” as well as the hookiness, as on the industrial pulse of “It’s Alright,” which sounds like the marriage of classic Nine Inch Nails with shoegaze titans Ride. They still have a bit of a ways to go before establishing an identity all their own, but for now, Weekend are perhaps the best band around at doing what they do. No sophomore album “jinx” here — Weekend’s latest is killer.
Hunx once wrote ’50s-style laments for the lonely rock ‘n’ roll-loving gay guy. Now he and his crew, including Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams, are tearing it up hardcore style on Street Punk, which bears all of the sass of its predecessors with added sneer and fuzz. It’s a kick to hear Hunx scream “I feel really fucked up!” at the album’s outset, or to hear Shannon tell everyone to fuck off on the brief “Everyone’s a Pussy (Fuck You).” Whereas Hunx previously traded in scrappy, candy-coated odes to heartbreak, his songs here are more self-possessed — the title track is a great Stooges-style song about being a square peg, while Shannon has a great time decrying the “fabulousness” attributed to so many gays on “Don’t Call Me Fabulous.” However, Hunx can’t help but keep things tuneful, as on “Born Blonde,” a funny jam about embracing your inner airhead. Hey cutie in the Crass shirt — Hunx wants your number.
It’s better than alright, it’s downright RADICAL. Bay Areans-in-Brooklyn Weekend have unveiled another new track from their upcoming album, Jinx, which is due July 23 on Slumberland. Starting with an industrial beat, the song moves into a laid-back groove and dishes out the sort of heavily effected guitars and heavenly, ethereal vocals this band has become known for. It’s been a few years since their debut LP, Sports, was released, and it sounds like the band has progressed quite a bit in that time. In fact we know that’s true, given 2011’s excellent Red EP. Shoegaze fans, get ready to get Jinxed.
White Dove are a breath of fresh air for the L.A. music scene, producing lo-fi pop with hints of Low, Lower Densand Cat Power. It’s rare to hear something this delicate and with such depth touted as a single from a cool new band (well, they were called Monster before) in a time when even the smallest bands seem to be jamming synths and dance beats into their sound, if they’re not going full garage. Such a nice, sweet surprise, with a sort of wavering trill to Alex Johnstone’s vocals that hint at deeper darkness. The Host, The Candle is due July 16 on RSRCH.
Bay Area shoegazers Weekend have a cool album and couple of EPs under their belt, but they look to take it to the next level with their next release, Jinx. Contrary to their prior quick-hitting, Jesus & Mary Chain-inspired guitar squalls, the slow-burning “Mirror” takes more than a minute to get going and unfolds at a gentle pace, with vocals only appearing after two out of its five minutes. But it’s anything but boring; rather, it hypnotizes you from the outset with droning, ethereal synths so its nuances hit even harder, like that cool heavy-guitar chorus, eerie background synth and krautrockish beat and bassline. Increased depth and confidence go a long way here toward expanding and improving their sound without dramatically changing it. Jinx is due July 23 on Slumberland.
Western Lows Unveil “Icicles,” Album Due in June
L.A. indie pop band Western Lows thankfully go for subtle on “Icicles,” a track from their forthcoming album Glacial, due June 4 on Jaxart. It’s the kind of song that doesn’t slam you with hooks or tricks but gradually gets under your skin, making it infinitely more intriguing than a lot of indie pop. The sound touches on shoegaze and new wave, with a Robert Smith-esque vocal delivery and a heavy, rolling bass, but they also seem intent on paving their own way and using the aforementioned genres as mere entryways. I’d say it was cool, if that wasn’t an accidental, awful pun. They’re at the Satellite April 15, The Redbury May 15 and the Jubilee Festival June 8.