This was going to be a Music Monday. But it kept getting bigger and finally turned into a full-fledged album-length mix full of LA-based bands. Consider this a love letter to LA and the fantastic music scene I’ve found here. It’s literally possible to go to a show nearly every day of the week and find bands you like. Even going much less often than that (two or three times a month), I’ve discovered many bands that keep me coming back for their shows, opening bands that I seek out everywhere they play, and seen what a great and supporting music culture exists here (if you look at the band line-ups below, you’ll find several people who are in multiple bands – nearly everyone is involved in multiple projects, creating really interesting cross-pollination). I’ve arranged them roughly from lesser known to better known (sort of an opening band – second opening band – headliner sort of thing), but that’s not completely accurate. Just a general rule of thumb.
1) Hello from Reno – It Comes and Goes
2) The Sweet Hurt – Bright Ideas
3) The Belle Brigade – 4%
4) Eulogies – Eyes on the Prize
5) Local Natives – Airplanes
6) Obi Best – Swedish Boy
7) The One AM Radio – Old Men
8) Army Navy – Dark As Days
9) Earlimart – Face Down in the Right Town
10) Juliette Commagere – Overcome
11) Lavender Diamond – Open Your Heart
12) Munchausen by Proxy – Uh-Huh
13) Great Northern – Mountain
14) The Bird and the Bee – Love Letter to Japan
15) The Submarines – Xavia
16) The Airborne Toxic Event – Does This Mean You’re Moving On
17) Jenny Lewis – The Highs and Lows of Being Number One
18) Silversun Pickups – Substitution
19) Rilo Kiley – Somebody Else’s Clothes
You can stream the songs individually or as a playlist (starting the first one will play them all in order), or right-click-save any song to download it. Or you can grab the whole mix, including my hastily-thrown-together cover art based on a Silver Lake mural, with this zip file (a little under 100mb). If you like the bands, please support them.
You’re going to want to click through the jump – full mix details are under there, with info and photos for every band. And it took me all week to do. So please. Click through. :) Most photos are not mine. Promo-type photos obviously aren’t. Crappy iPhone-looking concert photos probably are.
1) “It Comes and Goes” by Hello From Reno
I promise, Hello From Reno are from LA despite their name. I guess they’re following in the footsteps of Architecture in Helsinki (from Australia) and Of Montreal (from Atlanta). Anyway, I caught these guys opening for Headlights on a sleepy Easter night at Spaceland. The crowd may have been small, but Hello From Reno’s mix of current and retro sounds and solid musicianship had me heading straight back to their merch table to grab their self-produced CD after their set.
2) “Bright Ideas” by The Sweet Hurt
The Sweet Hurt is basically Wendy Wang, who’s fairly prolific in the LA scene. She sings with Obi Best (see track #6) and Juliette Commagère (see track #10), and I wouldn’t swear to this, but she may be one of the backup singers that sometimes performs with The Bird and the Bee (see track #14). The night I saw her, she did triple duty with both of the former bands as well as The Sweet Hurt – a fantastic night of local music indeed.
3) “4%” by The Belle Brigade
The Belle Brigade’s Barbara Gruska is another omnipresent LA performer – in addition to this band that she started last year with her younger brother Ethan, she plays drums for Obi Best and Jenny Lewis (see track #17). A female drummer is unusual enough, but one who can also play guitar and sing really well? (And in The Belle Brigade, she does ALL THREE AT THE SAME TIME, due to a drum set up that lets her play using foot pedals.) Barbara is a treasure. She’s also super-nice.
The Belle Brigade are Barbara Gruska (vocals, guitar, drums) and Ethan Gruska (vocals, guitar, keys)
Discography: everyone around you (2009)
4) “Eyes on the Prize” by Eulogies
I hadn’t heard of Eulogies until I saw them open for Great Northern (see track #13) last week. They’ve been around for a few years though, and they gave a good, solid rock performance.
5) “Airplanes” by Local Natives
Local Natives recently did a residency at Silverlake Lounge, and I went one night to see Army Navy (see track #8) open for them. Glad I stayed for Local Natives – they’ve got a really unique and interesting sound. Sorta rock, sorta folksy, sorta experimental. Closest thing is probably Fleet Foxes, but even that doesn’t quite get it.
Local Natives are Taylor Rice (vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keys, percussion), Ryan Hahn (vocals, guitar), Andy Hamm (bass), Matt Frazier (drums)
Discography: Sun Hands (2009)
6) “Swedish Boy” by Obi Best
Obi Best leader Alex Lilly has sung backup for The Bird and the Bee for a while, and moving out on her own with Obi Best is working well, also. They’ve got a really unique sound, a bit twee perhaps, but with minorly inflected melodies that I haven’t heard too many people doing (okay, The Bird and the Bee a bit, perhaps, but Obi Best takes it a little further). Honestly, of all the bands on this list, this is the one whose MySpace I check most often lately to see when they’re playing again. Still bummed I didn’t bring enough money to that show to buy their album.
7) “Old Men” by The One AM Radio
So, The One AM Radio. They opened first for Bishop Allen when I saw them last year. I stood outside for a couple of hours with friends of One AM Radio’s keyboardist (the show listed as sold out online, so we were both there super early hoping to get tickets at the door – we did), but the line of ticket-holders was so long I didn’t get inside until about halfway through the set. But I made sure to catch them at their next show, loved them, met my line friends again, and now one of the line friends is my hair stylist. AWESOME. The One AM Radio is basically Hrishi Hirway, and the rest of the band has changed over the years – the current lineup is completely different to the one in all the albums below, so I chose a song off the Give.Listen.Help charity album that Urban Outfitters put out last year, because I think it does have the current group. Hopefully they’ll be putting out something new soon.
The One AM Radio is Hrishikesh Hirway (guitar, vocals)
Discography: This Too Will Pass (2007), On the Shore of the Whole Wild World EP (2005) A Name Writ in the Water (2004), An Assembly (2003), The Hum of the Electric Air (2002), A Cloud’s Fear of Kites: A Kite’s Fear of Heights EP (2000)
8) “Dark as Days” by Army Navy
My friend Lis turned me on to Army Navy after they had a song on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Turns out one of the families she nannys for, the mom is a music supervisor (who did Nick and Norah among other things), and the dad is a music producer (who produces Army Navy, among other things). So we’ve seen them a time or two now, and they’re really great – both a great band and great guys.
9) “Face Down in the Right Town” by Earlimart
That Bishop Allen show that I was worried I might not’ve gotten into? If I hadn’t, I would’ve gone downstairs to the other venue and seen Earlimart. :) As it is, I haven’t seen them at all, but hope to at some point. I really like what I’ve heard.
Earlimart are Aaron Espinoza (guitar, vocals), Ariana Murray (bass, keys, vocals); band: Solon Bixler, Scott McPherson, Derek Brown, Russell Pollard, Brian Aubert, Andrew Lynch
Discography: Hymn and Her (2008), Mentor Tormentor (2007), Treble and Tremble (2004), Everyone Down Here (2003), The Avenues EP (2003), Kingdom of Champions (2000), Filthy Doorways (1999)
10) “Overcome” by Juliette Commagère
Juliette opened for The Bird and the Bee (she also sang backup with them) at a show a few months ago, and I was immediately impressed with her epic, otherworldly sound. She’s virtually got an orchestra on stage with her – keys, guitars, trumpets, cellos, I don’t know what all, but it all ends up sounding wonderful. She just completed a residency at the Echo, and that show was fantastic, too.
Juliette Commagère and band are Juliette Commagère (vocals, keys), Joachim Cooder (drums), Alex Lilly (vocals, keys), Eamon Ryland (guitar), Ben Messelbeck (bass), Emily Reppun (french horn), Candace Bartel (trombone), Ed Mann (trumpet), Mark Bush (trumpet), Lisa Grzanka (violin), Lindsey Stella (violin), Tim Weed (viola), Matt Cooker (cello)
Discography: Queens Die Proudly (2008)
11) “Open Your Heart” by Lavender Diamond
Lavender Diamond frontwoman Becky Stark has been busy of late, working on Lavender Diamond’s sophomore album, her own solo album, an eleven-woman chorus, and a trio project with Inara George (of The Bird and the Bee) and Eleni Mandell. Her flower-child-esque ethereal quality seems to roll with all this busyness with no problem, and we get finely tuned pop gems out of it. Interestingly, I was not terribly impressed with the band when they opened for Rilo Kiley at the Greek Theatre – but I want to blame the size of the venue (really far too large for them) more than anything else.
12) “Uh-Huh” by Munchausen by Proxy
Okay, this is a bit of a stretch. Munchausen by Proxy is a band created for the film Yes Man (with Jim Carrey), but with Zooey Deschanel and Von Iva on screen to play the band, it still worked out to some great music. And this song in particular is so LA-esque and so hilarious that I couldn’t NOT include it.
Munchausen by Proxy are Zooey Deschanel, Von Iva
13) “Mountain” by Great Northern
This is embarrassing, but my friend Lis had to DRAG me to see Great Northern last week. I somehow had them mixed up in my head with some other band with “great” in the name that I don’t care for. Thankfully I begrudgingly checked out their MySpace and decided to go, because this was an AWESOME show. They weren’t headlining, it didn’t matter, they could’ve played all night and I would’ve been happy.
Great Northern are Rachel Stolte (vocals, guitar), Solon Bixler (vocals, guitar), with Dusty Rocherolle (drums), Marissa Micik (keys)
Discography: Remind Me Where the Light Is (2009), Trading Twilight For Daylight (2007), Sleepy Eepee (2007)
14) “Love Letter to Japan” by The Bird and the Bee
I first came into contact with The Bird and the Bee when they opened for Rilo Kiley a couple of years ago when I saw them in Austin. And I liked them – Inara George’s ethereal voice along with Greg Kurstin’s keys and synths weren’t quite what I was used to hearing, but I enjoyed it. Now I’m much more into that pseudo-electronic sort of sound, and their new album is utterly amazing, one of my favorites of the year. Seeing them play again here (this time with a full set of back-up singers) was a highlight. And Inara has some of the best between-song banter of anyone I’ve seen.
The Bird and the Bee are Inara George (vocals), Greg Kurstin (keys); Alex Lilly (backup vocals), Juliette Commagère (backup vocals)
Discography: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (2009), The Bird and the Bee (2007)
15) “Xavia” by The Submarines
This was a total off-the-wall let’s-check-them-out concert. Didn’t know them before I went (though I discovered they do have a song on Nick and Norah, this one in fact, and their “You, Me and the Bourgeoisie” is on the iPhone commercials, so I just wasn’t doing my research), and immediately fell 100% in love with them. I’ve seen them once more since then, and I was just thinking this morning I’m about ready to see them again. Blake and John are married now (met, dated, broke up, missed each other, got back together, all while writing amazing songs about their relationship), and they are seriously, the.most.adorable.thing.you’ll.ever.see.
16) “Does This Mean You’re Moving On” by The Airborne Toxic Event
The Airborne Toxic Event has gotten relatively well-known in a really short period of time, actually. I found out about them when they opened for The Fratellis, but they’re hitting the festival circuit really hard this year, and getting really decent set times for a band that’s only been together for a couple of years.
The Airborne Toxic Event are Mikel Jollett (vocals, guitar), Daren Taylor (drums), Anna Bulbrook (strings, keys), Noah Harmon (bass), Steven Chen (guitar)
Discography: The Airborne Toxic Event (2009), Does This Mean You’re Moving On EP (2007)
17) “The Highs and Lows of Being Number One” by Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis needs no introduction if you’ve been reading my blog at all ever. She’s pretty much my favorite artist in the world right now, and I’ve seen her live more often than I’ve seen anyone else, too. Since I talk about her a lot and she’s pretty well-known at this point, I opted to share a song that’s only on the Japanese edition of her latest album Acid Tongue. (Don’t ask how I got it, because no, I didn’t import the Japanese edition.)
Jenny Lewis and band are Jenny Lewis (vocals, guitar, keys); Johnathan Rice (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Wilson (bass), Barbara Gruska (drums, vocals)
Discography: Acid Tongue (2008), Rabbit Fur Coat (2007 – as Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins)
18) “Substitution” by Silversun Pickups
Silversun Pickups are kind of the poster band for the Silver Lake music scene right now, inheriting the title from Rilo Kiley (see track #18). Another embarrassing fact: I heard them two years ago open for Snow Patrol, and I didn’t like them AT ALL. Since them I’ve grown to, and I loved seeing them live this year, and hope to again at some point. If they ever decide to play some actual, like, local shows. *hint hint*
19) “Somebody Else’s Clothes” by Rilo Kiley
Oh, Rilo Kiley, I love you so. How could I not put Rilo Kiley in the premier position? I’ve shared, like, half their songs at one point or another, so instead of repeating songs or putting up something everyone who knows Rilo Kiley is likely to know, I picked this live recording from the Live at Fingerprints EP. This EP isn’t widely available – it’s from a live show (at Fingerprints, if you believe it) in 2004. Most of the songs are live versions of songs on More Adventurous, but this one isn’t on any of their studio albums, and I think it really represents them well.
Rilo Kiley are Blake Sennett (guitar, vocals), Jenny Lewis (vocals, guitar, keys), Pierre de Reeder (bass), Jason Boesel (drums)
Discography: Under the Blacklight (2007), Live at Fingerprints EP (2004), More Adventurous (2004), The Execution of All Things (2002), Take-Offs and Landings (2001), The Initial Friend EP (1999)