Popular With Us 2013: Buzz Bands LA’s favorite EPs of the year (local edition)
Seraphina Lotkhamnga on
There may have been 202 local albums released this year (yes, 202), but sometimes you can’t get have a successful finale without putting out a little teaser first. EPs are often overlooked when making year-end lists, but we at BBLA HQ believe the preview is just as important as the finished product. Short releases are good way of telling us what we may be looking forward to, and a good way to keep a tab on who keeps going strong and who fizzles out. L.A. was fruitful again; there was a lengthy list of mighty strong EPs this year. Our final 20 – the list was compiled and written by Seraphina Lotkhamnga, with Bronson occasionally adding his 2 cents – spans from classic rock to electro-pop and everything in between.
Here are thoughts on some of our favorite local EPs from 2013, with some honorable mentions after No. 1:
20. The Janks, “Meet the Janks”
“Meet the Janks” was an appropriate title for the Janks’ third release considering the changes in the band’s lineup over the years, but their reintroduction was a solid one. The follow-up to 2011’s “Hands of Time” is brimming with rollicking tunes like “Every Man For Himself.” If the Janks continue to do classic rock right, their next release may also be noteworthy.
||| Previously: “Every Man For Himself”Â
19. Goldroom, “Embrace”
Although the summer hit “Fifteen” (feat. Chela) is technically a 2012 track, Goldroom’s “Embrace” EP continued to bring Josh Legg’s music to the forefront of sun-kissed disco and electro-pop. Drastically different from 2012’s tropical “Angeles” EP, Legg and his new live crew brought the beach party vibe to other locales with new songs such as “Sweetness Alive” (feat. Say Lou Lou) and “Only You Can Show Me” (feat. live band member Mereki Beach).
||| Previously: Interview, “Embrace,” “Only You Can Show Me”
18. Tyler Lyle, “Expatriates”
Atlanta-bred singer-songwriter Tyler Lyle, without a doubt, released one of the most overlooked EPs of the year. “Expatriates” picks up right where he left off on 2012’s “The Golden Age & the Silver Girl,”Â and we don’t even mind that his opening track “Medusa” is over five minutes long. With lyrics like “She can take your brain, but not your blood / She can bury your bones but not your love,” Lyle is already one of the brightest Americana singer-songwriters in our book.
||| Previously: “Werewolf”
17. Night Terrors of 1927, “Guilty Pleas”
It was only a matter of time before Blake Sennett (Rilo Kiley, the Elected) and Jarrod Gorbel (the Honorary Title) teamed up together as a band. With Sennett previously producing Gorbel’sÂ 2010 disc “The Devil’s Made a New Friend,” they two teamed up together as Night Terrors of 1927. The duo’s debut “Guilty Pleas” EP is a dark slice of electro-pop with some anthemic choruses.
||| Previously: “Dust and Bones,” “Watch the World Go Dark”
16. Wages, “Shady Chamber”
Wages, the collective revolving around songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Nick Campbell, may be the best thing to have landed in L.A. for lovers of reverb and pitch-shifted soundscapes. Having traveled from North Carolina after recording their debut “Shady Chamber” EP, the duo came to the City of Angels to release an amalgamation of sophisticated string arrangements, light-feather vocals and some major rock elements. Woozy, dreamy and stimulating.
||| Previously: “Pull Through”
15.Â You Me & Us, “Stay Inside”
Kids can do the darndest things… like, release a nice little fuzzy EP then end up playing Coachella the next year. We knew young garage-rock outfit You Me & Us were clever when they wroteÂ songs titled “Steve Holt!”Â on their debut EP “Paperweights” in 2012, and now we know they had more where that came from – and it’s even better. With Bobb Bruno’s signature production, You Me & Us does it again on “Stay Inside.” They’ve packed a mighty punch in just over 11 minutes.
||| Previously:Â “Swim or Sink”Â
14. yOya, “Go North”
Uplifting electro-pop without cheesy lyrics can be hard to find these days, but yOya continue to conquer with each release. Following up 2010’s “Nothing to Die,” the duo’s latest EP, “Go North” is not only an instruction but an inspiring one. Songs like “I’ll be the Fire” and “King of Nothing” prove to be another whirlwind of powerful falsettos, meticulous synths and guitar work.
||| Previously: “King of Nothing,” “I’ll Be the Fire”Â
13. Realities, “Realities”
Those who weren’t so much into Electric Guest, but were fans ofÂ Matthew “Cornbread” Compton might have loved Realities’ self-titled EP. The project showcased Compton’s composing talents and highlighted some of White Iris’ most beloved vocalists including Alex Lilly of Touché, Matt Popieluch, Fool’s Gold’s Luke Top and Only You’s Rachel Fannan. With tracks like lilting ballad “Living for Love” and the Beach Boys-esque “Ocean Away,” Compton and friends really hit it out of the park with this one.
||| Previously: “Living For Love” featuring. Alex Lilly of Touche
12. Kitten, “Like a Stranger”
It gets harder and harder to remember Kitten’s Chloe Chaidez is only 18 years old when her vocals on record and moves on stage have never sounded and looked more mature. Trading in the pop rock they were pushing on 2011’s “Cut It Out” EP, Kitten’s new, big electro-pop path seems to be working in their favor. The follow-up, “Like a Stranger,” glistens with slick production, seductive melodies and melodramatic dance floor-worthy synth lines.
||| Previously: Live at SXSW
11.Â Wildcat! Wildcat!, “Wildcat! Wildcat!”
When you need a break from rock ‘n’ roll, Wildcat! Wildcat! has got you covered with pop ‘n’ soul. It’s a genre they’ve taken by the reins since their first single “Mr. Quiche,” a concoction of dreamy synths and R&B undertones. The trio continued to tease fans with single by single during their Echo residency earlier in the year. So when they finally rolled out with their debut EP, which proudly totes a sexy sax solo in the opening track “The Chief,” we knew this batch of songs would be a winner.
||| Previously: “Garden Grays,” “Please and Thank You”
10.Â Nightmare & the Cat, “Simple”
Although Django and Sam Stewart went into music separately (Django fronted Django & the Midnight Squires and Sam tried his hand with solo material), it was obvious the brothers would be more explosive together. Nightmare & the Cat proved this, with rave reviews coming in (including some from this blog) for an EP alone. “Simple,” the title of both the EP and the forthcoming debut full-length, and standout track “Goodbye So Many Times” embody everything enjoyable about Britpop from then and now.
||| Previously: Lobsterfest gallery, “Simple,” Chinatown Summer Nights gallery, Gary Basemena’s House Party at Skirball Center
09. The Record Company, “Feels So Good”
If there’s one blues-rock band around town everyone’s talking about, it’s the Record Company. Their fan base has been exponentially growing since we first discovered their track “Don’t Let Me Get Lonely”Â off last year’s debut EP “Superdead.” Â The trio pleased fans yet again with a stellar follow-up “Feels So Good.” With slide guitar enticing one to slide and shimmy on the dance floor, the Record Company’s second release certainly lives up to its name.
||| Previously: “Baby, I’m Broken,” video, “Feels So Good”
08.Â Mansions on the Moon, “Full Moon”
No matter what decade we’re listening to, ’80s sheen and male falsetto never seem to go out of style. Electro-pop quartet Mansions on the Moon surprised us with “Full Moon,” a collection of sophisticated pop songs that groove as much as they shimmer. Songs like the optimistic “It’s Not Too Late” verge on M83 atmospherics with a few remix tweaks here and there while other tunes such as “Heart of the Moment” touch on old-school R&B and funk. Interstellar vibes, midnight cruising, sparkling dance floors, and sensual wooing –”Full Moon” is a five-track gem that soundtracks all of this.
||| Previously:Â “Heart of the Moment” ft. Zee Avi and “It’s Not Too Late”Â
07. The Cold and Lovely, “Ellis Bell”
Sweet but raucously loud, the “Ellis Bell” EP by the Cold and Lovely is solid piece of ear candy for shoegaze and ’90s alternative rock fans. It’s another EP that is severely underrated, especially since it’s work of musicians who hold resumes most would envy. (Any Smashing Pumpkins or Hole fans out there?) But no matter, the Cold and Lovely continue to live up to their name with their wall of fuzz, nostalgic guitar licks and anthemic choruses.
||| Previously: “Ellis Bell”
06.Â The Moth and the Flame, “&”
With a bass line as hypnotic as the one in “Sorry,” it wasn’t hard to get hooked on the Moth & the Flame’s “&” EP. The ampersand-loving trio, whose members are comprised of singer-guitarist Brandon Robbins, bassistÂ Mark Garbett Â and drummer Andrew Tolman, is finding themselves quickly climbing up CMJ charts with good reason. Moving to L.A. to work with Joey Waronker was a good move, and it sounds like they’ve also made another one for their full-length by bringing producer Peter Katis on board.
||| Previously: “Sorry”
05. In the Valley Below, “Peaches”
There has undoubtedly been a surplus of electro- and synth-pop duos coming out of L.A. this year, with most unfortunately executing the genre in an all-too-predictable manner. Thankfully, In the Valley Below has released the sparkling “Peaches.” Filled with dynamic indie pop duets such as the title track and “Stand Up,” members doing business as Angela Gail and Jeffrey Jacob should be looking forward to a warm reception with the forthcoming full-length.
||| Previously: “Peaches” video, Skirball’s “Into the Night” gallery, “Hymnal”
04. Banks, “LONDON”
There has been no shortage of innovative hip-hop and R&B this year, but one local R&B/soul artist has proven a cut above, thanks to her measured vocals and great production. Jillian Banks, who does business as simply as Banks, ignited the fire early on in the year with the hypnotic “Before I Met You” but amped up her game even more by working with similarly successful atmospheric artists such asÂ SOHN, TEED, Jamie Woon and more on her debut EP. “LONDON” is deliciously dark; Banks’ restrained vocals deliver her inner troubles with such sophistication it’s downright provocative.
||| Previously: “Fall Over,” “Before I Ever Met You,” “Warm Water,” “Waiting Game,” “This Is What It Feels Like”
03. Warships, “Shadows”
AlthoughÂ Edson Choi also released an album as part of Miracle Days, Warships’ long-awaited debut EP “Shadows” remains a favorite on our list. With its sunny pop disposition, “Sleeper Hold” and “Flash Flood” have kept the year bright despite releasing only a snippet of what the quintet has worked on with producer Raymond Richards. Melodically rich and textured for an infectious delivery, let’s just say that this is what the Shins would sound like if they were bred in SoCal.
||| Previously: “Heater,” “Flash Flood”
02. Cillie Barnes, “Happy Valley”
(Seven Four Entertainment)
When Vanessa Long – who does business as Cillie Barnes – announced her solo project shortly after departing from Family of the Year, we welcomed her with open ears after hearing the catchy, endearing “Hey Hi.” Her debut EP, “Happy Valley” extends her talents in melding pop, gypsy-folk and hip hop flavors. An odd description at first, but the EP’s first official single “Brainwash” just ended up landing at #1 in our favorite local songs of the year countdown. Memorable hooks, slick couplets and an edgy vocal rasp have us hoping for more of the same on the forthcoming album.
||| Previously: “Veranda,” “Brainwash,” video
01. Kan Wakan, “Forever Found”
There has been no other local short release this year that has been more sweeping than Kan Wakan’s “Forever Found” EP. Not even a name change (the septet originally went by Oren Lyons) could slow this talented collective down. Spanning from every genre from R&B to Americana (including classical music, soul, psychedelia and electronica), Kan Wakan’s sophisticated orchestrations are so lush there’s enough space in what they do to give everyone their own magical experience when listening. Give it a spin while there’s a full moon out and see what happens.
||| Previously: Chinatown Moon Festival gallery, “Midnight Moon Part I & II,” Echo Park Rising gallery
Fire At Sea, “Fire At Sea”
Soft Swells, “Lifeboats”
Eagle Rock Gospel Singers, “Eagle Rock Gospel Singers”
Charlie Clark, “Feel Something”
Y LUV, “Take the Ride”
Smoke Season, “Signals”
Western Scene, “EP”
Hunter Hunted. “Hunter Hunted”
Active Child, “Rapor”
Dream Panther, “Beyonce’s Child”
Conway, “Big Talk”
The Fox Must Pay, “Xtraordinary Thing”
Patrick Park, “We Fall Out of Touch”
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