The 25 Best Albums By California Artists Released in 2014

Posted by Billy Gil, December 17, 2014 03:50pm | Post a Comment

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.

Allah-LasWorship the Sun

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 Haxel Princess

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.


Cool Ghouls - A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye

Cool Ghouls make music like the transformation of San Francisco never happened, spinning out jangling three-minute hippie-rock nuggets that enliven their classic rock influences with youthful exuberance without getting silly like some bands of their ilk. The thinking man’s garage band.


Bart Davenport Physical World

Jangle-rock gems that will bring miles of smiles to fans of Aztec Camera, Orange Juice and any other band that managed to pair gorgeously chiming guitars with witty lyrics.


Deerhoof La Isla Bonita

Deerhoof make one of their best albums in years with La Isla Bonita, maturing while retaining some of the wildness of their early work—Greg Saunier’s drumming can hardly be tamed, and Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals trade between motherly coo and maniacal yelp. Check out our episode of "What's In My Bag?" with Saunier.


De Lux Voyage

L.A.’s De Lux fills the hole left by departing dance-rock bands like LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture with immediate, expansive tracks that long on detail and hooks. With David Byrne-ish vocals and densely layered grooves, De Lux’s Voyage is both smart and a lot of fun.


DJ Quik The Midnight Life

Quik’s back with another set of smooth jams that hide dark lyrics into their densely layered folds. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag?" with DJ Quik.


Flying Lotus You’re Dead!

Flying Lotus’ fifth album is as strikingly original as anything he’s put out while also becoming streamlined, boasting guest spots from Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg on a couple of ace singles. But to the uninitiated, the album’s still pretty nuts, full of jazzy explosions and creeping paranoia. The recently released deluxe edition LP includes instrumental versions of every track as well as the original album.



L.A. duo Girlpool pack more smarts and attitude into 15 minutes than most bands do in a lifetime on their debut, seven-song EP, touching on great female-fronted rock bands of yore like The Slits, Young Marble Giants, The Breeders and Bikini Kill without being beholden to any of them. What comes out is a sort of minimalist, playfully feminist record about girls who don’t put up with shit—they’ll punch a dude for talking out of both sides of his mouth, as they sing on the seething “Jane.”


The GrowlersChinese Fountain

On Chinese Fountain, The Growlers successfully add new elements to their sound while retaining their core appeal, with forays into Elvis Costello-influenced new wave (“Chinese Fountain,” “Not the Man,” “Good Advice”) sitting nicely alongside mellow surf-pop tunes like “Black Memories” and “Magnificent Sadness.” It’s a successful go at the big leagues without selling out. Watch The Growlers perform live at Amoeba Hollywood in the video below.


Joel Jerome Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk

The former dios (malos) frontman makes his solo debut of original material, and it’s stuffed full of the kind of melodically perfect stoner-friendly pop that only comes around once in a great long while. Read my interview with Joel Jerome here.


La SeraHour of the Dawn

La Sera’s Katy Goodman cranks it up to 11 on Hour of the Dawn, balancing her sugary melodies nicely with heavily distorted guitars and punk beats. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag?" with Goodman below.


MedicineHome Everywhere

The L.A. shoegazers return with their second post-reunion album, and it’s even better than 2013’s To the Happy Few. Tracks like “The Reclaimed Girls” are wild and shambolic, feeling urgent and utterly contemporary, while “Move Along – Down the Road” brings the noisy goods and Beatlesesque melodies like no newbies possibly good.


Kevin Morby Still Life

Former Woods bassist and Babies guitarist Kevin Morby makes a fine full-length debut full of dusty garage rockers and gently bummed-out ballads.


Ariel Pinkpom pom

Say what you want about him personally, Ariel Pink still makes some of the coolest music around, throwing together a Salvation Army store’s worth of forgotten sounds into his psych-pop blender on the awesome pom pom. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag?" with Pink.


Pyramid Vritra Indra

One of the most original hip-hop releases of the year comes courtesy of Stones Throw signee Pyramid Vritra. Indra’s brain-frying production grabs you by the shoulder while his stoic flow keeps you sitting tight while he seemingly channels sounds and words from another dimension.


ScHoolboy Q Oxymoron

Schoolboy Q keeps it real on his major-label debut, sounding both strange and commercially minded while staying engaging and direct in his rapping style, with winning guest spots from Kendick Lamar, 2 Chainz and excellent production from Tyler, the Creator on “The Purge.”


Ty Segall - Manipulator

On the well-balanced Manipulator, Ty Segall gives us both the classic songsmith and the guy who’ll beat you over the head with a big fat Sabbath riff in doses that add up to a perfect concoction. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag?" with Segall.


The Skygreen Leopards Family Crimes

The Skygreen Leopards’ Family Crimes is so soothing and brisk, you almost don’t hear them singing about extraordinary heartache through these whispery, Laurel Canyon-style psych-folk tunes.


Thee Oh SeesDrop

Thee Oh Sees’ perhaps final LP encapsulates what the band has done so well for the past decade while still forging new territory, balancing songs that thump around in dark, noisy corners with those that bang out the psych-glam riffs brilliantly.


tUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack

Once again, tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus mangles her elastic voice, drums loops and kitchen-sink instrumentation into cartoonish works of art, but this time they’re more palatable than ever. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag?" with Garbus.



On their sophomore album, Warpaint relish in subtlety, with dark, atmospheric songs whose meanings or melodies you might be able to place right away, but whose impressions lasts much longer than instant gratification-style pop songs.


White FenceFor the Recently Found Innocent

Tim Presley’s fifth album as White Fence trades in the tape-hiss for the studio, better revealing the tunefulness that was always lurking within his sprawling previous releases. Watch an episode of "What's In My Bag" with Presley below.


White Lung - Deep Fantasy

With White Lung singer Mish Way now in L.A., the Vancouver-based band took us by storm this year. Way's searing vocals burn through scouring riffs on this serrated slab of hardcore punk fury.


YG My Krazy Life

Compton’s YG lets us ride passenger-side through his wild tales while remaining catchy throughout, especially on standout, party-ready tracks like “Left, Right” and “Bicken Back Being Bool.”


There are lots more where that came from! Check out my year of Album Picks and Weekly Roundups for even more California gold.

Relevant Tags

Thee Oh Sees (31), The Skygreen Leopards (5), Best Of 2014 (20), California (15), Lists (63), La Music (74), Sf Music (66), Cherry Glazerr (12), Yg (13), Allah-las (27), Ariel Pink (33), Pyramid Vritra (4), Joel Jerome (5), Bart Davenport (5), Flying Lotus (21), Girlpool (8), Cool Ghouls (8), Deerhoof (14), De Lux (8), Dj Quik (12), The Growlers (12), La Sera (13), Medicine (8), Kevin Morby (11), Schoolboy Q (11), Ty Segall (41), Tune-yards (15), Warpaint (17), White Fence (20), White Lung (6)