Popular With Me 2010: Buzz Bands LA’s favorite local albums of the year


The favorite 40 local albums of 2010 as rendered by a listener who tries be open to sounds from every niche in our fair region, who tries not be swayed by hype, and who makes no apologies for liking his meat and potatoes.

1. Local Natives, “Gorilla Manor” (Frenchkiss)

This was more of a 2009 album for locals who fell for the Natives during their Silver Lake residencies, but its February release in the U.S. augured widespread love for the quintet’s bright harmonies, clattering percussion and wiry melodies. The first version of this album landed in my laptop in January 2009, and almost two years later “Gorilla Manor” is still worth visiting. [Feature (2009), gallery.]

“Airplanes”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/lirm4jw3jgv/Local%20Natives_Airplanes.mp3]

2. Delta Spirit, “History From Below” (Rounder)

The Long Beach quintet tore through the folk-rock masses with their sophomore release, which is at turns hard-charging and exceedingly tender, thanks to Matt Vasquez’s fragile tenor. Proof that you don’t have to reinvent (or deconstruct) music to make memorable songs. [Feature, review.]

“Bushwick Blues” [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/521llhjzlt63e81/02%20Bushwick%20Blues.mp3]

3. Aloe Blacc, “Good Things” (Stones Throw)

I came late to the music of 31-year-old Orange County native Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III, but I’m glad I found it. The former rapper segues to silky-smooth soul, and makes it sound timeless. There’s a Velvet Underground cover too. [Video.]

“Femme Fatale”: [audio:http://www.stonesthrow.com/jukebox/aloeblacc-femmefatale-7inch.mp3]

4. Avi Buffalo, “Avi Buffalo” (Sub Pop)

Teenage guitar prodigy Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg couples his very adult licks with unabashedly honest lyrics delivered in childlike wonderment. It’s a potent combo that makes you eager to hear what’s down the road. [Feature (2009), gallery.]

“What’s In It For” [audio:http://assets2.subpop.com/assets/audio/6048.mp3]

5. Tenlons Fort, “Shelters” (self-released)

The music of itinerant, enigmatic songwriter Jack Gibson is like buried treasure, waiting to be unearthed at some gallery or all-ages space. If Gibson played the game (and he doesn’t), he could be the toast of the Hotel Cafe. He made this album, donated half of the proceeds to charities for the homeless and summarily skipped town to work on a film project. This one’s so obscure I can’t find an image of the album cover online. But listen up. [Feature.]

“You Won’t Be With Me”: [audio:http://yukonpromotions.com/tenlonsfort/04%20You%20Won%27t%20Be%20With%20Me.mp3]

6. Dios, “We Are Dios” (Buddyhead)

In an age when some of lamest piffle gets drenched in reverb and labeled genius, the veteran psych-pop outfit from Hawthorne can’t seem to catch a break. Intricately layered, wry, full of surprises and downright beautiful, “We Are Dios” should have been their big comeback album after three years of relative silence. It’s too good to be ignored. [Feature.]

“Stare at Wheel” [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/8ubw83pi3c68d73/Dios_Stare%20At%20Wheel.mp3]

7. Fitz & the Tantrums, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” (Dangerbird)

Who would’ve thought that a guy pushing 40 could start a new band, pay dues on the club scene, get signed, release an album and finish the year with a packed-to-the-gills show at the El Rey Theatre? Doing revivalist soul, no less? Michael Sean Fitzpatrick, aided notably by singer Noelle Scaggs and horn man James King, created an infectious paean to the age of Motown done with playful indie-rock energy. [Feature, gallery, video.]

“MoneyGrabber”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/1epiab3z9gs79lr/FitzandtheTantrums_MoneyGrabber.mp3]

8. Baths, “Cerulean” (Anticon)

With a little nudge from Daedelus, 21-year-old Will Wiesenfeld emerged as one of the stars of the L.A. beat scene with an album of agitated but buoyant psychedelia fashioned from intricate beats and ornate instrumentation and topped by the songwriter’s boyish tenor. It’s quite an earful, and quite a debut. [Review.]

“Maximalist”: [audio:http://www.fofmusic.net/press/press/03_Maximalist.mp3]

9. Shadow Shadow Shade, “Shadow Shadow Shade” (self-released)

Remember when albums were albums, and you felt they had Big Ideas behind them, maybe even storylines, and they sucked you into their intoxicating alternative universes? That’s what the long-awaited debut from the band formerly known as the Afternoons feels like. It’s anthemic, operatic, energetic – and remarkably ambitious, the work of seven Silver Lake veterans who distill classic influences into a sound that’s almost larger than life.  [News, download, video.]

“Is This a Tempest in the Shape of a Bell”: [audio:http://girlieaction.com/music/shadow_shadow_shade/downloads/Is_This_A_Tempest_In_The_Shape_Of_A_Bell.mp3]

10. The Soft Pack, “The Soft Pack” (Kemado)

The L.A.-via-San Diego quartet is caught somewhere between the beach and the garage, with an album of tightly wound and occasionally caustic guitar rock. The band’s second album (and first since it dispensed with its original moniker the Muslims) hardly ever lets up, and singer Mark Lamkin sounds every bit the collar-shirted punk. [Video.]

“More or Less”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/dopj1k03yyg6tf9/The%20Soft%20Pack_More%20Or%20Less.mp3]

11. Wait. Think. Fast., “Luces Del Sur” (self-released)

Dreamy and sultry in two languages, the second release from the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Jacqueline Santillan and Matthew Beighley is a true melting-pot record. From the uplifting “Look Alive” to the Latin-flavored “Jornaleras,” there’s plenty of range here, both sonic and emotional.   [Feature.]

“Look Alive”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/o2f8n2ymyvnosz0/Wait%20Think%20Fast%20-%20Look%20Alive.mp3]

12. Everest, “On Approach” (Warner/Vapor)

The quintet’s vintage American rock grew by leaps and bounds on their sophomore release, a mix of arena-sized anthems and tender balladry. Russell Pollard and crew show plenty of youthful abandon in their expansive arrangements; the songs, whether sweet or bittersweet, are the work of guys who know their craft. [Feature.]

“Unfortunate Sea”: [audio: http://www.mediafire.com/file/j3phn5zn7hskz3r/Everest_Unfortunate%20Sea.mp3]

13. Autolux, “Transit Transit” (TBD)

Our favorite art-rock trio went 2,107 days between album releases. Was it worth the wait? Depends on your needs. The follow-up to 2004’s “Future Perfect” is dark and distant, more of a digital soundscape than the guitar-charged rock that put them on the map. Something’s strangely compelling, though, and although I don’t think I can get close enough to “Transit Transit” for a full-on embrace, just smelling the perfume is enough. [Feature (2009), news.]

“Supertoys” [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/g387kkmf637ehwk/Autolux_Supertoys.mp3]

14. Eels, “End Times” (E Works)

Mark Oliver Everett released not one but two albums this year, completing a three-record trilogy he started in mid-2009 with “Hombre Lobo” and ended in August with “Tomorrow Morning.” The middle album, released in January, finds E mired in his finest mopery, full of revelation and beauty and even a sprinkling of his self-deprecating humor. [Video.]

“In My Younger Days”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/l8lzzfpxbz5nx45/Eels_In%20My%20Younger%20Days.mp3]

15. Helen Stellar, “If the Stars Could Speak, They Would Have Your Voice” (self-released)

Jim Evens and bandmates Dustin Robles and Clif Clehouse returned from a long hiatus, added guitarist El Lhymn, and released a triumphant collection of big, arching anthems that push all the right buttons. Not quite the shoegaze Helen Stellar made back in the day, this album puts Evens’ yearning vocals more out front. Good, because he sounds happier.  [Feature (2009).]

“From Here On” [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/tzlw6y12fpvu6t6/Helen%20Stellar_From%20Here%20On.mp3]

16. No Age, “Everything in Between” (Sub Pop)

Underground heroes Dean Spunt and Randy Randall maintain the decibel level on the follow-up to “Nouns,” but here they’ve shaped their sonic stream-of-consciousness into something catchier and more dynamic. NME, citing the evolution of the duo’s noise-pop over three albums, suggested No Age is the new Pavement. Works for me.

“Fever Dreaming”: [audio:http://assets1.subpop.com/assets/audio/8020.mp3]

17. Gram Rabbit, “Miracles & Metaphors” (Cobraside)

Yeah, bunny ears are silly, and Gram Rabbit really shouldn’t need any schtick. The Joshua Tree quartet’s fourth album offers up a couple of their signature “desert disco” dance numbers, but overall it’s psych-rock record, and a heady one at that. It’s time to treat them as more than just lovable eccentrics. [Feature.]

“Candy Flip:”

18. The Henry Clay People, “Somewhere on the Golden Coast” (TBD)

The wise-guy rockers moved up to a big label for their third album, reworking “Working Part Time” and “This Ain’t a Scene” from their sophomore record and sounding surprisingly reined in. Their shout-sung witticisms are the stuff of collegiate bars, not dirty dives, and the way the Henry Clays fold them into their indie/classic rock is clever too. Expect something even bigger next time out.  [Feature, video.]

“Your Famous Friends”: [audio:http://www.mediafire.com/file/tzinit2cw2j/The%20Henry%20Clay%20People_Your%20Famous%20Friends.mp3]

19. Glasser, “Ring” (True Panther)

Cameron Mesirow’s experimental prog-pop counterposes cool synths and warm orchestration to fashion a lush backdrop for her siren vocals, which at turns float above her sonic thicket and dissolve into it. She’s just getting started, something of a bedroom Fever Ray, and “Ring” suggests she has plenty of vision. [Review; video.]

“Home”: [audio:http://www.truepanther.com/mp3/Glasser_Home.mp3]

20. Warpaint, “The Fool” (Rough Trade)

Suddenly critical darlings after feeling their way around for some five years, Warpaint mesmerizes with slight, off-kilter melodies, dreamy textures and arresting rhythms. The haters whisper that four dudes doing the same music would get summarily ignored, but what comes out of the headphones tells me this is very good debut album by a quartet that’s found its aesthetic. And could use a couple more entrees like “Undertow.” [Video; gallery]

“Undertow”: [audio:http://promo.roughtraderecords.com/warpaint/undertow.mp3]

The next 20
21. Film School, “Fission” (self-released)
22. Los Lobos, “Tin Can Trust” (Shout! Factory)
23. The Deadly Syndrome, “Nolens Volens” (self-released)
24. Radar Brothers, “The Illustrated Garden” (Merge)
25. Ceci Bastida, “Veo La Marea” (self-released)
26. The 88, “The 88” (self-released)
27. John Carpenter, “Fairy Tales Forgotten” (self-released)
28. Abe Vigoda, “Crush” (PPM)
29. Bleu, “Four” (self-released)
30. Bad Religion, “The Dissent of Man” (Epitaph)
31. Mini-Mansions, “Mini-Mansions” (Rekords Rekords)
32. Kisses, “The Heart of the Nightlife” (This Is Music)
33. Ariel Pink, “Before Today” (4AD)
34. The Chapin Sisters, “Two” (Lake Bottom)
35. Flying Lotus, “Cosmogramma” (Warp)
37. Stedapol C.C. Watt, “Glassell Park Grit” (self-released)
37. Pepper Rabbit, “Beauregard” (Kanine)
38. Chief, “Modern Rituals” (Domino)
39. The Sweet Hurt, “The Sweet Hurt” (self-released)
40. Summer Darling, “Summer Darling” (Origami)