Compiling an “Los Angeles artists to watch” list for 2017 is an interesting exercise, because it’s a two-class system in this town. If an artist has a label deal, powerful management and a promotional team in place, then it figures they’re going to get “watched” in the coming year, whether they’re worth it or not. If an artist is working as an independent, they will have to claw to get noticed.
So our “Bands to Watch 2017” is a mix of both. Yes, it doesn’t take amazing clairvoyant powers, or much smarts at all, to include the likes of Bishop Briggs, MUNA or Alexandra Savior on such a list, but they deserve special attention. So here they are. Along with people who might merit special attention once their music reaches more people.
Here’s Buzz Bands LA’s annual list, which is (mostly) limited to artists who have not yet released a full-length album — and is in no particular order. Oh, and remember the name Reys.
L.A. native Sydney Wayser, who moved back home four years ago and embarked upon making music under the name Clara-Nova, has had to start from scratch after a business kerfuffle left her master recordings in label limbo and the songwriter-empty-handed. She is fan-funding the re-recording of her (very good) songs.
||| Stream: “An Island”
The (independent) band built around the colorful dynamic of Louisiana ex-pats singer Jessica Ramsey and guitarist Andrew Martin spent much of 2016 making an album with producer John Goodmanson (Blonde Redhead, Sleater Kinney, Blood Brothers). Almost indescribable, but think Kate Bush on swamp gas taking a mystical trip through the bayou.
||| Stream: “Boy Magic” (2015 single, no new music available yet)
The gifted product of UCLA has appeared on our “Artists to Watch” list for four years in a row now. Based on our crystal ball and the fact that 2017 in a prime number, this is the year his full-length will arrive. It will be different than his EPs, but if it’s still Moses Sumney singing, we’ll probably be interested.
||| Stream: “Lonely World”
Backed by Warner Bros., their debut “Feel Your Feelings, Fool!” is out Jan. 13. File under: Teenage rage. And speaking of irony, will they become the first rock band fronted by a 16-year-old girl whose album cover will carry a Parental Advisory label?
||| Stream: “Seashore”
Guitars, check. Swagger, check. Searing first single, check. Mercifully less retroist than your cassette-label favorites, Warbly Jets could be on their way to being the guitar band this town’s rabid rockists want. Find out at their Satellite residency, which starts Monday.
||| Stream: “Alive”
And speaking of teenage phenoms, Eilish, just 14 and recipient of more than 30 million Spotify plays on her two two singles and their remixes, has been scooped up by Interscope. Stay tuned for more beautiful brooding in 2017.
||| Stream: “Six Feet Under”
The new vehicle for the music of Joshua Ostrander have everything in place for a big ’17, including Buzz Bands LA’s favorite song of ’16, “Shine.” Expect a full-length via Republic Records by the spring.
||| Stream: “Shine”
The romantic, stadium-sized rock of this Ben Grey-fronted quartet was on display on their “Parts of a Flower” EP. If people still held lighters up in the air to signal their desire for more, ours would be aloft.
||| Stream: “Alluria”
Since she appeared on our list last year, the O.C. native has done nothing to diminish her standing as somebody we can’t wait to get an album from. A fierce talent.
||| Stream: “God Is a Woman”
Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch could very well be your new California folk-rock heroes. These guys can harmonize. Still independent, Mapache (ma-PAWCH-ay) haven’t released any music yet, but impressed at local gigs this year and recorded this live session. “We have a record in the oven,” Blasucci said in November.
||| Stream: A demo of “Mountain Song”
With five bangin’ electro-soul singles (and more where they came from) and the support of Island Records in the pockets of her posh warm-up jacket, she looks to be can’t-miss.
Another indie-rock artist who has been name-checked on this list before. After years of work (and stylistic shifts), the debut full-length from Cecilia Della Peruti and gang should finally arrive this year.
||| Stream: “How Life Works”
Yes, another group of teenagers doing gritty, back-to-basics rawk. Catch the band (Henri Cash, Arrow de Wilde and Austin Smith) in January at the Echo, or later in the year, opening for some band they will wind up being better than.
||| Stream: “Ants”
The Portland-bred singer’s debut album “Belladonna of Sadness” will be out April 7 on Columbia Records, and her latest single “Mystery Girl” was co-penned by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys. She’ll open for Hamilton Leithauser on Jan. 16 and 17 at the Teragram Ballroom.
||| Stream: “M.T.M.E.”
A strong EP and follow-up singles — not to mention an ostentatious residency at the Bootleg Theater — marked Alina Cutrono as a special beast among avant-pop artists. Further explorations are forthcoming.
||| Stream: “Take a Bite”
The L.A. trio’s debut album “About U,” out Feb. 3 via RCA Records, wraps the dark electro-pop songs from their EP along with new tunes like “I Know a Place.” They’ll headline the Teragram Ballroom on Feb. 1.
||| Stream: “So Special”
Ward’s recent residency at Harvard & Stone marked her as a rocker to be reckoned with, and considering her songs, pipes and force of personality, she will probably be in a position to give up her day job as a hair stylist pretty soon.
||| Stream: “Make Love to Myself”
It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to include pop confectioners James Sunderland and Brett Hite on this list; their treacly single “Capsize” is everywhere and they just made their television debut on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this month. The question will be whether the duo has anything distinctive, given the interchangeability of synth-pop acts, beyond their “Truce” EP.
||| Stream: “Capsize”
When we will get a deeper look into Rothman’s weird, wonderful world is anybody’s guess. He was on this list last year, and his compelling, theatrical electronic dalliances have included collaborations with Kim Gordon and Angel Olsen.
||| Stream: “Designer Babies” (feat. Kim Gordon)
The 21-year-old singer-songwriter is comfortable in the rock, pop and Americana worlds — she even guested on this year’s Joyce Manor album. Recently, she has opened for Conor Oberst, Blake Babies and Julien Baker, and it’s been a year and a half since her killer single, “Killer.”
||| Stream: “Prayer in Open D” (Emmylou Harris cover)
Also keep your ears open for: