Feel free to chime in if you feel like I overlooked something. I’m sure I did. For one thing, I totally overlooked hip-hop and punk rock. Believe it or not, there are tons of releases I still haven't heard (Mika Miko, Year Future, J Dilla, Ferraby Lionheart, etc.)
1) The Little Ones: Sing Song EP (self-released; later reissued on Astralwerks) – One of my concert highlights of the year was the first time I saw these guys. I’m not one of the most hyperbolic bloggers around, but I was immediately smitten. I’ve been hyping these guys ever since. How about this for a year…. they recorded an incredibly fun EP in the studio with David Newton of the Mighty Lemon Drops; they played a few shows that were widely praised; they self released their EP; the played Sunset Junction; they did a Spaceland residency; they got signed to Astralwerks in the US and Heavenly in the UK; they did their first big US tour with Small Sins. What’s in store for 2007? A UK tour in support of Boy Least Likely To, followed by a headlining UK tour with Tilly & the Wall. You can catch them on Saturday night at the Echo. Fans of indie pop and new indie bands like the Fruit Bats and Spinto Band should dig it.
Download “Lovers Who Uncover” and “Cha Cha Cha” and “High On a Hill”
2) Silversun Pickups: Carnavas (Dangerbird) – It was also a huge year for the Silversun Pickups. They released their debut LP on Dangerbird records. They performed on Letterman. They Impressed audiences at CMJ and SXSW. They toured with Wolfmother. They appeared as guests on MTV2’s Subterranean. What’s in store for 2007? They’re going out on a massive tour (29 dates) with Snow Patrol. The tour includes a stop at the Gibson Amphitheatre and New York dates at the theatre at Madison Square Garden. Tonight they’re doing the Live 105 radio show in San Francisco with the Shins, Raconteurs, Modest Mouse and the Killers. Then on Saturday they’re in San Diego for the FM 94/9 show with Modest Mouse and the Shins. Local folks can also catch them next Saturday (sold out) and Sunday at the Troubadour. What’s the music sound like? They’ve got fuzzy guitars, loud/quiet dynamics, big hooks, emotional choruses and are influenced by some of the best popular alternative bands of the nineties. Sure they’ve got their haters (most popular bands do), but they’re a genuine band, playing the kind of music they love and they’re playing it to an international audience. There just aren’t a lot of bands writing these kinds of anthems today as well as they do.
Download “Well Thought Out Twinkles”
3) The Clean Prophets: Praise is Poison (self-released) – You probably haven’t seen these guys yet or heard much about them if you don’t live on the west coast, but I keep returning to their debut album. Several of these songs get under your skin. They’ve drawn praise from the LA Times and Amoeba Music (who featured them as one of their homegrown picks). The trio’s influences are wide, but I usually compare them to 1980’s British guitar bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Chameleons. The lead singer has a distinctive, evocative voice that conveys emotion well.
Download “Praise is Poison” and “Tambourine Crown” and “Crime”
4) Languis: Other Desert Cities EP (Pehr) – I kept hearing great things about Languis, so I borrowed their album, The Four Walls, and listened to it. It left me a bit cold. Then I saw them live. They had great stage setup and the kinds of songs that make you want to put on headphones, close your eyes and space out for a while. I was happy when they released this EP, because it finally captured their impressive live sound. They toured a bit and scheduled an Echo residency. Right before that first show one of the founding members left. I haven’t seen them since then, so I’m not sure how it affected them.
Download “In the Fields of (Lonely Fences)”
5) Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) – I never considered myself a Rilo Kiley fan, but I’ve quickly become a big fan of her solo career. When I heard this record I listened to it once and threw it on the bottom of the pile. Then I saw her live and everything changed. She’s so charming and professional and so darned cute. She’s got a great band and their performance is like a throwback to the heyday of the Grand Old Opry. They look so comfortable together and it feels like a family. The family vibe makes sense – the band consists of a set of twins, two couples and Farmer Dave (who gets along with almost everybody). It put a huge smile on my face when I saw them. Their recent performance on Jimmy Kimmel further solidified my geeky fandom.
6) Let’s Go Sailing: The Chaos In Order (self-released) – Shana Levy won over a ton of new fans at her recent Spaceland residency. If you like piano-driven music from female vocalists, you’re going to love this. But even if you don’t normally like “chick music” I urge you to give this one a listen. Standout tracks are “All I Want from You Is Love” and “Icicles.” In 2007 I predict she’ll have national distribution and probably as many TV/film licenses as she cares to accept.
7) The Tyde: Three’s Co. (Rough Trade) – These seasoned veterans of the Echo Park scene released their third album this year. It’s unfortunate that the British press shows them a lot more love than the American press. I’ve heard local musicians joke that when you arrive in LA, Darren Rademaker is the guy that meets you at the bus station. To me, that’s a testament of his support of the local scene. The music’s the easy, breezy soundtrack to your beer drinking, joint smoking day at the beach.
8) Division Day: Beartrap Island (self-released) – Super nice guys and maybe the youngest band on this list? They’re passionate and work their asses off on the road which makes them exactly the kind of band that labels should be dying to work with. They’ve drawn heaps of praise from the blog world and have also been singled out by the LA Times and Amoeba as a local band worthy of your attention. The vocals make me think of Old 97’s era Rhett Miller, but I might be the only person in the world who thinks that. They’re already slotted to do the Monday night residency at Spaceland in February.
Download “Tigers” and “Tap-Tap, Click-Click” and “Colorguard” and “Hurricane”
9) Cold War Kids: Robbers and Cowards (Downtown) – The Cold War Kids are another band that had a huge breakout year. Their self-released EPs and energetic stage show impressed audiences across the country. They toured extensively and impressed audiences at SXSW and CMJ which lead to a major label deal and a growing fanbase. What’s in store for 2007? A European tour with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Elvis Perkins. They’ve gotten their share of hate, but I tend to root for bands that have a great connection with their audience. I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time with this record, but it’s one of those things that grows on me the more I hear it.
10) Watson Twins: Southern Manners (self-released) – What’s not to like? Their voices are so pretty and they sing such nice harmonies. It’s a great mellow soundtrack for your drive through Topanga Canyon. It’s great how supportive Jenny Lewis has been.
Three bands not listed above to keep your eye on in 2007:
1) The Parson Red Heads – Currently tearing it up at the Echo on Mondays in December. Their EPs don’t yet capture their live energy.
2) The Broken West – An album on Merge and a Spacleand residency
3) The Deadly Syndrome – Another band with demos that don’t capture their live energy.