As another year filled with great music comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on albums that really stood out to me. 2019 was the year I got into the trendy lo-fi bedroom pop, jazz inspired sounds of Crumb and Men I Trust, while also exploring noise acts like Metz, Show Me The Body and Girl Band. As one might expect, the list is predominantly “indie rock,” with most acts falling into the post-punk category. If that’s your thing, check out the individual albums and the playlist below.
Author: Ilana Tel-Oren
Desert Daze 2019 Highlights
Imagine a world where you can watch amazing bands on a desert oasis just an hour from Los Angeles? It’s possible at Desert Daze. Phil Pirrone and Co curated an incredible lineup of psych rock acts including Stereolab, Khruangbin, DIIV and many many more. I went this weekend to cover the fest for MXDWN, and fully intended to see as much as humanly possible. It wasn’t always easy – the heat during the day left me feeling woozy and the cold night air was hard to withstand (note to self, bring a thicker jacket!) and there were times I was just ready for it to be over. “You know what’s underrated? Arriving to festivals late” one of my friends said. And I felt that, but what I got to experience by being on the festival grounds all three days from open to close was nothing short of magical, and those moments in which I found myself feeling particularly grateful – listening to a band I love like Crumb while watching the sunset – made it all worthwhile.
Julia Jacklin with Black Belt Eagle Scout live at The Roxy
An early show at The Roxy with drew in fans of Northwestern-based Black Belt Eagle Scout and Australia’s darling, Julia Jacklin. The place was packed with mostly young women who fan-girled over Jacklin about as die-hard as the Maggie Rogers crowd.
Unfortunately for me, I missed most of Black Belt Eagle Scout who started promptly at 8:00 p.m, as they were the band I really made the trek to Hollywood to see. I did manage to walk into a shredding solo from singer and guitarist Katherine Paul, and was immediately delighted to see three women on stage, fronting the band. Paul invited Jacklin and her drummer on stage for their final song, “Soft Stud,” Jacklin joining on guitar and singing along to the lyrics,”need you want you.”
Watch Now: Gracie Gray “Morphine”
The dreamy new single “Morphine” by artist Gracie Gray is available to stream on Oregon In A Day, her album that just dropped last Friday. And better yet, it’s accompanied by a music video featuring the artist herself in a contemplative haze.
The scene begins and ends in a bedroom, with a euphoric outdoor ride in between showing Gray singing softly and smiling upwards towards the sky as the light speaks in through the trees. “And I take it way too far, so no one’s love will reach me” she sings painfully while touching her face as though it’s gone numb. The hopeful moment comes during the outdoor scene: she closes her eyes and “oohs” before going right back to where she was in the bedroom.
Sonically, “Morphine” brings to mind a mesh of Beach House with liberal use of slide guitar and the masterful folk song writing of Hand Habits. It’s dreamy and takes the listener on a journey that doesn’t stray too far from home. Watch now:
Gracie Gray’s album release show will take place Sunday July 7th at the Bootleg Theater in LA. Here is the ticket link: https://www.bootlegtheater.org/e/gracie-gray-album-release-show-61076651910/
Listen/purchase Oregon In A Day here: https://ffm.to/oregoninaday
Valentine’s Day with The Marías
This Valentine’s Day, I opted to spend the night basking in the sultry sounds of one of my favorite bands right now, The Marías, who sold out the OC Observatory. The María’s first came on my radar when I heard them perform at the Long Beach festival, Topicalia, and I’ve been in love ever since. They released a two-part EP, Superclean Vol. I and II, just last year and it’s been in my heavy rotation this year. I was fortunate to snag a copy on vinyl, which features Vol I on side A, Vol. II on side B, and had María sign it during the meet-and-greet after the show.
Their set dazzled from start to finish, with María absolutely mesmerizing the audience in a stunning red dress as her ethereal voice carried across the audience. To set the scene, a table was set at the front side of the stage, and two women sat and were poured wine. The band took the stage, with the men donning white suits with black tops. The vibe was straight out of a ’20s flapper lounge. They opened with “Cariño” and the crowd grooved along right away. “Self-love is most important… and I’ve struggled with it,” María shared with the crowd of lovers. For “Over The Moon,” María said, “this song takes pace in outer space,” and they had everyone take out their phones and shine their flashlights, casting a glittering glow across the room. We were also graced with a couple new songs, not yet available to stream including “Out For The Night” and “Catalyst.” Seductive trumpet solos in songs like “Ruthless” got huge cheers from the crowd. But the cherry on top was a cover they had teased on their social media the day before the performance, one of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Their take on the song was in true María’s fashion, slow and seductive with some jazzy chords thrown in for good measure. They came out again for a three-song encore, starting with one of my favorites from them, the airy “ABQ.”
The opening acts were solid, with performances from Nashville’s Dreamer Boy and Tijuana’s Vanessa Zamora. Dreamer Boy had the crowd going “yee haw!” and grooving along to their fresh, hip-hop, R&B fusion. Vanessa Zamora charmed the crowd with her synth-heavy indie pop. Songs like “Solegrande” really had the crowd moving. All of her songs were in Spanish, and she threw out copies of her CDs which the crowd leapt at. Definitely acts to keep an eye on!
At the end of the night, fans lined up for a meet and greet with the band, and I got to have my record signed and fan girl a bit with a photo. 10/10 for this Valentine’s Day.
- Only In My Dreams
- I Like It
- Over The Moon
- Out For The Night (new song)
- I Don’t Know You
- Hit Me Baby (Britney Spears cover)
- Basta Ya
Indiecation Top 30 Albums of 2018
It’s that time of year again when everyone is busy compiling lists of the best albums and songs they’ve heard all year. It was another great year of music, and the indie category certainly provided plenty of greats to pick from.
This year, we saw local artists like the Hawthorne-based Cuco really take off as he went from playing back yards to Coachella in just 1 year. This indie-fusion dominated the sounds as bands like Triathalon, Boy Pablo, The Marias, Clairo and more jumped to the forefront with sultry, R&B inspired, jazzy indie rock.
At the same time, the post-punk scene flourished with groups like Nothing and Idles, and Beak> releasing strong albums. And while when releasing top lists there’s always that feeling of “I’m sure there’s something I didn’t discover this year that would absolutely be in here had I … discovered it,” I got through a decent amount of indie releases, and here’s what really stood out:
30. Porches – The House
This album has one of my favorite songs of the year, the short and sweet “Country” which is soulful, sad and deliberate.
29. A Place to Bury Strangers – Pinned
Another great post-punk, noise rock album, Pinned is dark and industrial. “Never Coming Back” is a strong opener that transfers me back to their sense-shocking performance at Desert Daze.
28. Cuco – Chiquito
While not quite as well rounded as previous albums, Chiquito still deserves recognition for shimmering love songs like “Sunnyside” and the fun, hip-hop influenced “CR-V.”
27. Ian Sweet – Crush Crusher
This album is heavy and dreamy. “Holographic Jesus” is definitely one that’ll get your attention.
26. Boy Pablo – Soy Pablo
This Norwegian-Chicano artist is putting out songs reminiscent of Cuco, with a more guitar centered focus.
25. Hovvdy – Cranberry
One of my favorite softer, simpler albums this year, songs like “Late” a perfect for a road trip.
24. Holy Wave – Adult Fear
These psych rockers produced some strong songs on this album including the self-titles, “Adult Fear” and the dreamy “Habibi.”
23. Shame – Songs of Praise
Another stunning post punk album coming from the UK, Songs of Praise is filled with punk attitude on songs like “One Rizla” and “Tasteless.”
22. GUM – The Underdog
With members of Pond and Tame Impala coming up with songs like “Serotonin,” this album is begging to be noticed.
21. Wild Nothing – Indigo
Wild Nothing continues to grow and put out solid albums. While each release since Gemini has needed time to grow on me, Indigo has some lovely songs like “Canyon on Fire.”
20. Vive La Void – S/T
This atmospheric album by Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo is a nice piece of work from front to back. “Devil” is a beautiful, driving krautrock song.
19. Suuns – Felt
I didn’t get to spend as much time with this album as I would have liked, but the opening song “Look No Further” is one of those with a line that just gets stuck in my head all too often for this album to not make the list.
18. Still Corners – Slow Air
Still Corners slipped in a delightful album this year with the soft, sultry Slow Air. The lush “The Photograph” is one of my favorite songs this year.
17. Kali Uchis – Isolation
This album is a wonderful blend of fun pop, soul and jazz fronted by the diva that is Kali Uchis. Songs like “Flight 22” and “Your Teeth In My Neck” are catchy and thoughtful.
16. Blood Orange – Negro Swan
This soulful album was a personal, powerful statement from Dev Hynes. Songs like “Charcoal Baby” and “Nappy Wonder” really stood out to me.
15. Part Time – Spell #6
A strong album all together from local outfit Part Time, Spell #6 is absolutely enchanting. “I Didn’t Know” is easily one of my favorite songs this year.
14. Heaters – Suspended Youth
I liked this album from the very first listen. It’s filled with strong, spacey, jangly psych rock that’s sure to please your ears.
13. MGMT – Little Dark Age
Probably the best “comeback album” of the year, Little Dark Age is filled to the brim with catchy, ’80s inspired beats and melodies including “Little Dark Age” and the lighthearted “Me and Michael.”
12. Kevin Krauter – Toss Up
Kevin Krauter’s 2019 album came on the scene strongly. Dreamy, jazzy numbers like “Lonely Boogie” and “Toss Up” have charming lo-fi qualities with strong melodies that’ll make you want to sing along.
11. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
This punk album is strong from beginning to end, with plenty of surprises thrown in with songs like “Back to Earth” and “Wide Awake” which goes into a funk style.
10. The Holydrug Couple – Hyper Super Mega
This album was another on my heavy rotation when it came out. Shimmering psych rock takes center stage again on spacey songs like “Forever End.”
9. Beach House – 7
7 was produced by Sonic Boom, thus creating a heavier sound than most Beach House albums. I absolutely adore the lush melody of “Drunk in L.A.” and the marimba in “Black Car.”
8. Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop
This album took a few listens to get into, but songs like “Plastic Migrane” and “I Hate The Flowers” really got through to me. The album is rooted in shoegaze, with equally heavy and dreamy elements.
7. Boogarins – Lá Vem a Morte
This album from Brazilian act Boogarins is not only all in Portugese, but is one of the more impressive dreamy, psych rock albums released this year. “Corredor Polones” is a stunning song on its own, and the whole album will have you in a dreamy haze.
6. Idles – Joy as An Act of Resistance
When I first heard the lyric “I kissed a boy and I liked it” in the middle of “Samaritans” I was like “whoah.” This album is filled with raw punk energy but really centers its message around self-love and acceptance.
5. Beak> – >>>
This album really made a strong impact on me. It’s dark and minimal and just gets more and more intriguing with each listen.
4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Sex & Food really pulled on my heartstrings with some of the strongest songs of the year including the tender “Hunnybee” and lyrically and melodically stunning “We’re Not In Love We’re Just High.”
3. The Marias – Superclean Vol. II EP
Even though this one is sort of a continuation of last year’s release, Superclean Vol. I, Vol. II EP stood out on its’ own with stunning, jazzy songs like “Over The Moon.”
2. Trialthalon – Online
Triathalon really blend genres in Online, which is basically an R&B album for people who normally gravitate to all things indie. The sultry vocals, shimmering synths and inspiring melodic riffs made this one of my go-to albums this year.
1. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage
This album is strong from beginning to end and had one of my favorite songs I’ve heard all year, the brilliantly strange “Desert Horse,” which starts in psych rock, then diverts into vocal outbursts and eventually falls into a faster, krautrock beat. Melody Prochet’s sophomore album takes great risks in several songs on Bon Voyage, each of which are incredibly catchy on their own.
And if you’re more into playlists, here are some of my top songs of 2018:
What were your favorite albums this year? Feel free to share below!
Album Review: Beak> – >>>
Let me start by saying that Beak> are a newfound love of mine since I discovered “Sex Music” and “Mono” probably on my Spotify discovery. Their latest album >>> has been on heavy rotation where I work now at Fingerprints music in Long Beach and I can’t get enough of it. Featuring members of Portishead and Moon Gangs, it’s no surprise that their collaboration has been so solid. Continue reading
The High Curbs, Goth Babe, The Side Eyes and more at the Constellation Room
On a Saturday night in Santa Ana, I caught a sold-out punk show with The High Curbs, Goth Babe, The Side Eyes and Moss at the Constellation Room. I was most excited to check out Goth Babe, a dreamy chill-wave act sandwiched between punk and hardcore madness. To my surprise, this $10 show was sold out and the venue was fairly packed. It was clear that there were two separate crowd, as an EDM act performed in the Observatory that night. Continue reading
Triathalon and Inner Wave at the Roxy
On a Friday Passover night in Hollywood, a sold out show of bands not many have heard of took place at the famous Roxy theater. A sea of brown-haired, Vans-wearing young concert-goers packed in the small venue for a night of fresh indie sounds.
Opening act L. Martin had quite an audience at 9pm. Complete with trombone, the five-piece indie rock outfit from Wisconsin really had the crowd engaged. I watched from the steps to the bar to give myself a better height advantage. Continue reading
Japanese Breakfast, Jay Som and Hand Habits at the Glass House
On Saturday, February 24 I caught a sold-out show at the Glass House in Pomona: a triple-threat act including a Hand Habits solo act (Meg Duffy), Bay-area rising indie artists Jay Som and Brooklyn-based indie pop group Japanese Breakfast. This female-fronted lineup drew quite a crowd, as Pomona would be the final leg of their tour. I was personally excited to see all three of these acts, as each of their albums released in 2017 made my list of top 20 indie albums. Continue reading