Popular With Us 2014: Buzz Bands LA’s favorite Los Angeles albums of the year



Los Angeles, you were mighty good to us in 2014. Albums came from every nook and cranny, from the bedrooms of the DIYers to the scrappy studios that keep the engine running to the hallowed halls of the city’s pervasive Industry. We could have listened to a new local album per day and not run short of material, and that’s not counting EPs and singles. Our Buzz Bands LA year-end list for 2014 is a collaborative effort between this site’s principal contributors, Seraphina Lotkhamnga, Andrew Veeder and myself. Here are our favorite 20 L.A. albums of the year, with a slew of special mentions at the end:

– Kevin Bronson

WhiteFence_FortheRecently20. WHITE FENCE

“For the Recently Found Innocent”

The sixth album from prolific singer-guitarist Tim Presley, once of Darker My Love, is a lovably wobbly, Ty Segall-produced affair that begs to be played on a desktop record player from the ’60s. Presley’s psych-pop derives equally from the British Invasion and West Coast flower kids, and even in his characteristic conciseness, he throws plenty of change-ups. Just turn the kaleidoscope. – K.B. [Stream via YouTube]

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DotHacker_HowsYourProcess19. DOT HACKER

“How’s Your Process?”

The experimental rock quartet released its album in two parts – “How’s Your Process? (Work)” in June and “How’s Your Process? (Play)” in October – each aptly subtitled. The manifestation of the talents of Josh Klinghoffer (the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist) along with ace hands Clint Walsh, Jonathan Hischke and Eric Gardner, the dozen songs here shift wildly in tonality, tempo and temperament. Start with “Whatever You Want” and “Memory” and then increase your degree of difficulty; it’s worth it. – K.B. [Stream “Play” via Spotify; “Work” via Spotify]

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WildcatWildcat_NoMoonAtAll18. WILDCAT! WILDCAT!

“No Moon At All”

It’s no surprise this trio spent most of their year touring in support of their full-length debut. “No Moon At All” is an impressive follow-up to 2013’s self-titled EP with songs like “Garden Gray” and “Hero” showcasing their lush, layered production, sparkling R&B melodies and more expansive tunes like “Circuit Breaker” demonstrating Wildcat! Wildcat!’s ability to seriously jam out even for a synth-pop band. – S.L. [Stream via Spotify]

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AviBuffalo_AtBestCuckold17. AVI BUFFALO

“At Best Cuckold”

Four years after his heralded debut, Avi Zahner-Isenberg is still wrestling with growing up, and amid the warm guitars and keys on Avi Buffalo’s sophomore album there’s a standoff between crystalline moments of lucidity (and beauty) and the lyrical minefields the 23-year-old singer-guitarist lays, either for effect or to see if anybody’s really listening. His subversive tendencies add a dark shade to what superficially is a pretty, easy-on-the-ears album. The suspicion here is that Avi Buffalo’s merely winking. Just you wait. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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SpringtimeCarnivore16. SPRINGTIME CARNIVORE

“Springtime Carnivore”

Singer-songwriter Greta Morgan has been in bands since she was a teenager – the Hush Sound, then Gold Motel – but she has found a distinct voice in her fuzzed-out psychedelic folk as Springtime Carnivore. Her Richard Swift-produced album on Aquarium Drunkard’s Autumn Tone label is whip-smart and whimsical, satiating even the most carnivorous appetite for buoyant melodies. – S.L. [Stream via Spotify]

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Warpaint15. WARPAINT


The quartet’s self-titled sophomore album is a dark and brooding affair, anchored by a dynamite rhythm section of Jenny Lee Lindberg on bass and Stella Mozgawa on drums, and elevated by dual guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman’s sultry vocals. Despite coming out in January, the album has lingered with its captivating tracks “Hi” and “Love Is To Die,” its dense and tense arrangements, and moody emotional contemplation. – A.V. [Stream via Spotify]

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MagicBronson_Wildlife14. MAGIC BRONSON


The wry, slacker-cool and slightly stoned debut from the duo of Matthew Lieberman and Michael Nicastro is the most fun you can have while listening to two guys who look like they just made a beer run. Deep in memorable tracks, “Wildlife” nods to electro-pop, hip-hop and funk, with Lieberman’s croon-and-flow and nifty wordplay following the lead set by Nicastro’s funky, fat bass lines. Smile, dance, repeat. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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“Mariachi El Bronx III

The charro-suited alter egos of punk rockers the Bronx have concocted a third album that ever-so-gently updates Mexican folk music while staying true to its traditions and teems with good old-fashioned pop hooks. Those are Top 40 choruses on “Wildfires” and “Right Between the Eyes;” “New Beat” does indeed sound fresh compared to same-ol’ dance music; and singer Matt Caughthran has never been more convincing at the serenata. Ah, romance. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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togetherPANGEA_Badillac12. TOGETHER PANGEA


Their last album produced a single (and fan favorite) like “Too Drunk to Cum,” so Together Pangea (fka simply Pangea) and their signing to Harvest Records made “Badillac” one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Fine-tuned but still rough around the edges, the band’s third studio album centers around the recreation of mayhem and spirit of punk, and while myriad L.A. bands fly their garage-rock flags, few have pulled off an album with such craft and imagination. – S.L. [Stream via Spotify]

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FreddieGibbsMadLib 11. FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB


Perennial chef Madlib cooked up some of the year’s best production and paired with Freddie Gibbs’ to jump all over the 17-course collection of funky and soulful beats with hard and fun tales of thuggin’, including the tracks “Broken,” “Deeper” and the appropriately titled “Thuggin’.” Featuring an all-star roster of guests including Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt and Raekwon, the duo have crafted a modern day tale of street life that plays to both of their strengths, and stands out amid the year’s hip-hop offerings. – A.V. [Stream via Spotify]

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IncanAbraham_Tolerance10. INCAN ABRAHAM


With warm keyboards, soaring vocals and propulsive rhythmic shifts, the debut from Teddy Cafaro, Giuliano Pizzulo, Spencer Mandel and Andrew Clinco evokes the rolling vistas of California (beyond, even, the geographically specific single “Tuolumne”), as seen through the faint mist of nostalgia. Everything about “Tolerance” – the precise percussion, Local Natives-quality harmonies, the layering of synths and guitar – makes for a consistently kaleidoscopic record. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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Banks_Goddess9. BANKS


A boldly confessional debut, Jillian Banks’ “Goddess” harnessed the power of the dichotomy in her artistry: One moment her vocals are so fragile it sounds like you could break her half and the next moment she’s soulfully belting out melodies that give her woozy R&B that special swagger. The lush production evokes a dreamlike state that makes one forget the hour-long collection could have used some belt-tightening. – S.L. [Stream via Spotify]

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BellGardens_SlowDawns8. BELL GARDENS

“Slow Dawns for Lost Conclusions”

The sophomore album masterminded by singer-guitarist by singer-guitarists Kenneth James Gibson and Brian McBride casts a warm glow, orchestrated with keys, guitars, pedal steel, strings, horns, light percussion and vocal harmonies. Whether you label it ambient folk, psychedelia lite or chamber pop, it’s a stunner, with hymns such as “She’s Stuck in the Endless Loop of Her Decline” stopping you dead in your tracks. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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OpenMileEagle_DarkComedy7. OPEN MIKE EAGLE

“Dark Comedy”

Open Mike Eagle’s fourth solo album is full of dense, intelligent, and inventive rhymes that are sometimes so profound you can’t help but laugh out loud. “Doug Stamper (Advice Raps)” stands out as one of the year’s best tracks, a hilarious and thoughtful collection of wisdom including “’99 Problems’ was a damn good summer song / If you got more than like three, then something’s wrong” and Hannibal Buress’ guest verse featuring the line “You a ho if your Facebook is complicated / Eat your fruit, fiber, b*tch, or get constipated.” – A.V. [Stream via Spotify]

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Lo-Fang_BlueFilm6. LO-FANG

“Blue Film”

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Hemerlein fused alt-R&B electronic production textures with organic guitar, piano and string arrangements to create a lush and lovely debut album. His emotive voice shines on “Light Year” and “Permutations,” his songwriting excels on “#88” and “Animal Urges,” and his transformative cover of “You’re The One That I Want” (from “Grease”) simmers with electricity. – A.V. [Stream via Spotify]

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FranciscotheMan_LooseEnds5. FRANCISCO THE MAN

“Loose Ends”

What’s this, an indie-rock album with sharp teeth and “Big Ideas?” Scotty Cantino, Brock Woolsey, Néstor Romero and Abdeel Ortega plugged away for years before unveiling their debut, a hook-filled mix of shoegazing, post-punk and dream-pop with scarcely a throwaway track. Come for the undulating walls of sound, stay to hear Cantino’s catharsis played out, guitars blaring. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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ArielPink_PomPom4. ARIEL PINK

“Pom Pom”

Multifarious weirdo Ariel Rosenberg dropped the “Haunted Graffiti” from his name and then dropped a 67-minute opus that, by hook or by crook, makes all his sonic crate-digging sound fresh. Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Todd Rundgren all come to mind as he hopscotches through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s on “Pom Pom,” tripping the night psychedelic as the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter rolled into one. BYO hookah. – K.B. [Stream on Spotify]

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JennyLewis3. JENNY LEWIS

“The Voyager”

Four years after she released “I’m Having Fun Now” as part of Jenny and Johnny and six years after her last solo record, Jenny Lewis returned with a record as strong as 2007’s “Rabbit Fur Coat.” A delightful medium between the psych pop on “Acid Tongue” and the mainstream melodies on Rilo Kiley’s “Under the Blacklight,” “The Voyager” is a collection of blunt yet elaborate nostalgia fleshed out with the help of Ryan Adam’s production and backing vocals from the Watson Twins, First Aid Kit, Lou Barlow and Becky Stark. – S.L. [Stream via Spotify]

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Beck_MorningPhase2. BECK

“Morning Phase”

Six years after his last proper album, Beck returned with the stunning and sublime “Morning Phase,” featuring front to back gems including “Morning,” “Blue Moon” and “Wave,” that rank among the best of his career. It’s a companion to his sad and seminal album “Sea Change” a dozen years after the fact, but now we discover that in the end, everything is going to be OK. – A.V. [Stream via Spotify]

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“Moving On”

Ambitious in an era artists retreat into comfortable genres, forward-thinking amid oppressive nostalgia and multichromatic in black-and-white times, the debut from the collective masterminded by Gueorgui Linev and Peter Potyondy offers stunningly orchestrated cinema. Beyond its compositional acumen (and there is plenty of that), “Moving On” assembles idioms from styles as disparate as rock, classical, soul, jazz, electronica into a cohesive statement: Emotionally and intellectually, we should always be forging ahead. This album is the soundtrack to that. – K.B. [Stream via Spotify]

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Afternoons (“Say Yes”)
Bad Suns (“Language & Perspective”)
The Belle Brigade (“Just Because”)
Black English [fka NO] (“NO”) (formerly titled “El Prado”)
Guy Blakeslee (“Ophelia Slowly”)
The Bots (“Pink Palms”)
Caught a Ghost (“Human Nature”)
Cherry Glazerr (“Haxel Princess”)
Cobalt Cranes (“Days in the Sun”)
Cold War Kids (“Hold My Home”)
Corners (“Maxed Out on Distractions”)
Rocco DeLuca (“Rocco DeLuca”)
Flying Lotus (“You’re Dead!”)
Robert Francis (“Heaven”)
Gardens & Villa (“Dunes,”)
The Growlers (“Chinese Fountain”)
Lili Haydn (“LiliLand”)
Habits (“Unselves in Arrival”)
A House for Lions (“Hills So High”)
Howls (“Howls”)
In the Valley Below (“The Belt”)
Joel Jerome (“Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk”)
Joyce Manor (“Never Hungover Again”)
Matt Kivel (“Days of Being Wild”)
La Sera (“Hour of the Dawn”)
Meiko (“Dear You”)
Blake Mills (“Heigh Ho”)
Noah and the MegaFauna (“The Pale Blue Dot”)
OFF! (“Wasted Years”)
Arrica Rose & the …’s (“Wavefunction”)
Pisces (“Pisces”)
Soft Swells (“Floodlights”)
Tijuana Panthers (“Wayne Interest”)
Nick Waterhouse (“Holly”)
White Arrows (“In Bardo”)
White Sea (“In Cold Blood”)
Devon Williams (“Gilding the Lily”)