We miss a lot of things. Not making excuses, we just do. So here is our annual mea culpa … in the form of 10 releases that slipped past us, or we slept on, or were buried in mountains of email. Thanks for listening.
Emma Ruth Rundle, “On Dark Horses”
The L.A. native’s third solo album, “On Dark Horses,” marries heavy, post-rock soundscapes to a folk singer’s penchant for storytelling and imagery. Also known for her work in Marriages, Nocturnes and Red Sparowes, Rundle has decamped to Lousiville, Ky., (hence, “Apathy on the Indiana Border”) to continue her work with Evan Patterson and other members of Jaye Jayle. Get chills as Patterson backs her on “Light Song.”
Moon Diver, “Laze” EP
Santa Barbara’s Moon Diver makes lush dream-pop, light on the synth and heavy on the mood. The work of singer-guitarists Alixandra Macmillan-Fiedel and Chris Norlinger (both formerly of Ghost Tiger), drummer Maxx Farris (the lighting designer for Tycho and Blood Orange) and keyboardist Chris Nava, the quartet’s debut EP, “Laze,” shimmers like a sky full of emotions. “I’m feeling all the things / all of the time,” Norlinger sings in “El Camino,” a good starting point for this EP.
Is “gospel shoegaze” a thing? Ghostel’s “1414” makes it one. The album was a long-in-the-works project from Daniel Knowles (ex-guitarist for British shoegazers Amusement Parks on Fire, whom many in L.A. know as a sound engineer for the Bootleg Theater and many touring bands), his wife Jennifer Farmer-Knowles and young singer Bryce Buckmaster. Sounding somewhere between the Jesus and Mary Chain, Spiritualized and a church youth group party, this debut is loads of fun.
Frankel, “The Future”
Frankel is the name for the music of singer-songwriter Michael Orendy, who eschews things like websites, Facebook pages and press campaigns. He’s probably not even in the phone book, but Frankel has three albums and three EPs on Spotify (a particularly brilliant one is titled “Anonymity Is the New Fame”) and all come recommended. “The Future” is understated pop from a quiet genius; start with “Day Dreamer” and ask yourself some of the questions he asks of himself in “The Future (Says No).”
Chris Price, “Dalmatian”
After a a two-year stretch that saw the release of the Emmit Rhodes comeback album that Price produced and the release of his own gem, “Stop Talking,” the Florida-bred singer-songwriter-producer struck again with “Dalmation.” Even though culled from the same sessions that produced “Stop Talking,” the songs on Price’s third solo album, a looser affair than its predecessor, can’t be characterized as B-sides or leftovers. Taylor Locke, Alex Jules, Fernando Perdomo and Price’s brother Corey Perez are among the contributors. Comparisons to anybody in the mythical Power-Pop Hall of Fame still apply. “The Dream Is Over (But We’re Just Waking Up)” applies, too.
Crash Richard, “Big Waste”
A year after releasing the genius video for the title track (a re-creation of Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” video), Chris “Crash” Richard — a longtime member of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and onetime frontman of the Deadly Syndrome — released his “Big Waste” EP. It’s a small bongload of playful vignettes about cocktail waitresses, cult members, stoned delirium and untimely erections.
Kenan Bell, “The Greater Good” EPs
Kenan Bell’s first new music since his 2010 album “Until the Future” arrived this year in the form of three five-song EPs, “The Greater Good 1,” “The Greater Good 2” and “The Greater Good 3.” A schoolteacher by day (“a rapper moonlighting as a schoolteacher,” he notes wryly), Bell makes hip-hop that’s playful and quirky, even nerdy. Bell was reared in La Crescenta and does not pretend to be anything he’s not. “Even my own family / say I’m a black man with white privilege,” he frets in “Dad.” Go elsewhere for lurid tales of street life; Bell worries about having to move his car on street-sweeping day on the RJD2-produced “Opportunity Knocks” and warns about hygiene in “Germs.” And check out Eliot Lee’s high-flying video for “Above.”
Tropa Magica, “Tropa Magica”
Brothers David and Rene Pacheco burst out of East L.A. as the main men in Thee Commons, doing “psychedelic cumbia punk” and becoming one of L.A.’s must-see live acts. Now helming Tropa Magica with Jason Juarez and Branden Santos, they released an electrifying debut album that chews through musical influences like ballplayers go through bubble gum. Start with “Soñabas” and try not to run out of breath.
Ken Sharp, “Beauty in the Back Seat”
Ken Sharp is a songwriter/producer/author who’s written books about power-pop heroes and continues to sound like one. His fifth album “Beauty in the Backseat” offers 16 nuggets seemingly carved from the AM radio playlists of more innocent times (although “Listen to Me” acknowledges the current one), underpinned by the sounds of Philadelphia soul. Ace Frehley of KISS, John Oates and Kasim Sulton of Utopia make cameos; reverentially speaking, a lot of other greats do, too.
Ronny Morris, “Sweet Silence”
Ronny Morris is a Danish singer-songwriter-composer-activist who has been living in L.A. and making bank writing music for film and television productions. His music video made on International Pillow Fight Day remains a blessing. Morris’ debut album “Sweet Silence” takes a broad worldview, with songs ranging from earnest ballads to orchestrated pleas for a better, cleaner world (see “Built to Last,” proceeds from which go to Greenpeace).