Bands to Watch 2014: Buzz Bands LA eyeballs the cream of the local music crop for the new year

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Thanks for the good times, 2013. Now on to the hottest prospects for 2014.

Last year’s Bands to Watch cited more than 20 Los Angeles acts who were already signed and ready to release full-lengths. Most of them did – although the vagaries of the record business and the occasional pratfalls of the creative process delayed the expected arrival of new music. So I’ll start by saying you should still be on the lookout for full-length releases from Cillie Barnes, Kitten, Blondfire (Feb. 11), In the Valley Below and the Colourist. Add to that list a bunch of others we name-checked last year: Kan Wakan, NO (Feb. 18) Meg Myers, Night Terrors of 1927, Run River North (Feb. 25), James Supercave, Wildcat! Wildcat!, Incan Abraham, A House for Lions, the Ceremonies and Sir Sly.

That said, what follows is my Hot List for 2014. It’s based partly on music I think you should hear and partly on music I think you inevitably will hear. As always, this list is limited to artists who have not released a full-length album. Please weigh in on my crystal ball-gazing with a comment, and check out the playlist of artists in the Top 10 at the end of the post.

Moses Sumney

No artist in recent memory has gone from zero to must-see more quickly than Sumney [pictured above in a composite photograph made by Kelsey Heng]. First spotted as the opening act for KING’s residency at the Bootleg in June, Sumney creates evocative folk-soul and is a one-man spectacle live, using multiple microphones and live-looped handclaps and vocal percussion, guitar and background vocals. Even without a manager, label or other handlers, Sumney has made a huge impression – including guesting at Beck’s “Song Reader” show at Disney Hall and at a slew of choice opening gigs. [Previously.]

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Fever the Ghost

Best musical simulation of an acid trip goes to the new quartet of Casper Indrizzo, Bobby Victor, Nicolas Overhauser and Mason Rothschild, whose uncompromising, synth-heavy psych-rock sounds like something Ariel Pink might do if he were charged by a nuclear power plant instead of AA batteries. An EP is on the way from the unsigned quartet. [Previously.]

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Lo-Fang

The new vehicle for the music of Matthew Hemerlein – a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who combines organic instruments like violin, cello, upright bass and guitar with electronic flourishes – makes for an evocative tapestry that has drawn comparisons to James Blake. The Washington, D.C., transplant is already signed to 4AD, with an album “Blue Film” due Feb. 25. [Previously. More.]

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The Moth & the Flame

The trio of Brandon Robbins, Mark Garbett and Andrew Tolman hail from the same neck of the woods as “alternative” radio marshmallows Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees, but you can’t hold that against them. Their EP “&” achieves that rare middle ground between sophistication and enchantment – if you’re not immediately seduced the bass line in their single “Sorry,” then I suggest therapy. The rest of their intricately arranged, pitch-shifted and polyrhythmic EP portends great things. [Previously.]

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Banks

Already massive due to September’s “London” EP and its various remixes, Jillian Banks was scooped up by Harvest Records after starting on local imprint IAMSOUND. Hers is a singer-songwriter world as filtered through production usually associated with massive EDM acts; coupled with a healthy penchant for avoiding the predictable, Banks thereby achieves both intimacy and expansiveness. No timetable yet, but there’s a full-length planned for 2014.  [Previously.]

Only You

The forthcoming album by Only You was described to me as “some dirty Dusty Springfield-sounding sh*t.” Can’t wait. Only You (and yes, the way they cover that song makes them worthy of the name) is the latest avenue for singer-songwriter Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun, as well as collaborations with UNKLE and the Mike Watt/Cedric Bixler supergroup, Anywhere), whose vocals can melt the ice in whatever you’re drinking. Hard to make retro sound this fresh, but Only You does. [Previously.]

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Avid Dancer

The only thing as catchy as Avid Dancer’s guitar pop is frontman Jacob Dillan Summers’ story – the ex-Marine played around L.A. for years, recorded some music with Raymond Richards, got married, moved to Alaska, moved back to L.A. when the songs got some notice and, now, assembled a band. Avid Dancer’s shimmering, faintly retro rock may remind you of bands like Allah-Las, but with tastier hooks. [Previously.]

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Gothic Tropic

The Echo Park outfit built around singer-guitarist Cecilia Della Peruti hasn’t released anything since their “Awesome Problems” EP in late 2011, but their recent live shows revealed a band violently resistant to the constraints of genre boundaries. A little riot-grrl punk, a little psych-rock and a little Can, Gothic Tropic is prone to abrupt squalls of guitar and spine-stiffening rhythmic shifts. There’s this one new song, “Puppet Master” … well, stay tuned; Peruti promises something special in 2014. [Previously.]

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Conway

Kassia Conway is a fast-talking, take-no-prisoners sprite whose music falls somewhere a middle ground surrounded by pop-punk, hip-hop and contemporary electro. Her starter EP “Big Talk” was that and more, an audacious display of attitude and charisma. Her live show rocks, which helps, but a bigger attraction is the lyrical bite that commands Conway be heard. [Previously.]

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Pr0files

OK, here’s my confession: I listened to no fewer than 50 new synth-pop bands (all from L.A., most of them duos) over the past year or so, and this item could just as easily name-check the sleek R&B of Bom Bom, the electro-folk of DWNTWN or the chirpy glowstickiness of Holychild. Almost any synth-pop that gets posted on the interwebs these days attracts fans like metal shavings to a magnet (I blame Passion Pit for the likes of Smallpools), and it’s hard to say whether any of this stuff will be more than digital detritus in 2017. So here I’m going with Pr0files (that’s a zero where the “o” should be), the duo of Danny Sternbaum and Lauren Pardini, who remind me of the best rather than the worst of the 1980s. Their album “Jurassic Technologie” will be out this year. Your taste in synths may vary. [Previously.]

Special mentions

See the people mentioned in the intro. And then:

Kera & the Lesbians, Bad Suns, De Lux, Hindu Pirates, Ghost Loft, Jessica Childress, Mystery Skulls, You Me & Us, Pageants, Beach Party, Hunter Hunted, Mansions on the Moon, Wildling, Max & the Moon, Warships, Irontom, KING, Francisco the Man, RÁJ, Steelwells, Northern American, Parade of Lights, Heaps n Heaps, FMLYBND, Rainbow Jackson, Tapioca & the Flea, the Wild Reeds, the New Limb, Gavin Turek, the Vim Dicta and yOya.

Here’s a playlist of songs from the Top 10

Photo credits: Moses Sumney by Kelsey Heng; Lo-Fang by Grant Singer; the Moth & the Flame by Marcello Ambriz; Avid Dancer by David Benjamin; Conway by Carl Pocket; Gothic Tropic by Bronson; Banks by John Michael Fulton