Want to see the future? Dive in to The Brand New L.A. Week at LAmag.com! Inspired by “L.A. on the Verge”—a far-reaching guide to the big boom transforming the Los Angeles that appears in our June issue—we’ve prepared five days’ worth of stories about the city’s exciting next chapter. How will L.A. look, work, and even taste in 2020 and beyond? Read on to find out.
Local music used to fall into very specific categories. In the 60’s and 70’s, L.A. was synonymous with the Laurel Canyon scene, whose socially aware politics and folky influenced country rock branded Southern California as an arcadian hippie paradise. In the 80’s, L.A. was all about the Sunset Strip, where cocaine-fueled glam rock made Hollywood look like the world’s biggest and longest running party (as Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan recently told us: “Hollywood was like the wild west in the 80’s”).
L.A. has never had a unified musical movement like Seattle’searly 90’s grunge scene or the Southern hip hop explosion in 00’s Atlanta. Instead, L.A. has become a hotbed for independent music as diverse as it is eclectic and idiosyncratic.
Here are five artists that are defining the sound of L.A. today:
Channeling the raw guitar vibe of the Stooges and the proto-heavy metal beats of Black Sabbath, Deap Vally is one of the coolest bands in L.A. right now. The power duo (guitarist and singer Lindsey Troy and drummer Julie Edwards), released their debut album Sistrionix in 2013 and have been on the road since. The band’s electrifying live performances are a testament to the power of rock ‘n’ roll.
If anyone’s keeping the Laurel Canyon sound alive these days, it’s North Carolina transplant singer-songwriter Jonathan Wilson. Wilson first broke through locally when he started hosting Wednesday night jam sessions at his house in Laurel Canyon. Big names like David Crosby, Graham Nash, The Wallflowers, Elvis Costello, Barry Goldberg, Patrick Sansone of Wilco, and The Black Crowes performed in Wilson’s backyard before it was shut down in 2010 due to complaints from the neighbors. Wilson’s latest album, 2013’s Fanfare, is a modern masterpiece of California folk rock.
L.A.’s Nocando a.k.a. rapper and producer James McCall is one of the most interesting rappers on the scene right now. With a background in battle rapping (Nocando’s trash-talking chops have won several titles), it’s no wonder that his rhymes come across with surgical precision and maximum clarity. Nocando raps about everything from his favorite movies to his inner most thoughts about being a good father and husband. Nocando’s Jimmy the Burnout from last year is a wild ride through L.A. on the back of Nocando’s surreal rhymes, complicated beats, and crooked jokes.
Sydney Banta’s one-woman new wave party L.A. Girlfriend is one of the most energetic live shows in town. Banta began L.A. Girlfriend as a bedroom recording project but quickly realized the full potential in her own work. The 2013, self-released (it’s actually still available for free via Bandcamp) Viva is packed with one infectiously catchy electronic post punk tune after another.
The fictional rock ‘n’ roll of Jack Name is one of L.A.’s most fascinating musical experiments. Name’s 2014 solo album (he’s released a bunch of records under other pseudonyms), Light Show, is a concept album about battle between good and evil and at the same time a fascinating examination of what it means to be a performer, rock star, and artist. Name’s music is gnarly and knotted and at times a strange and terrifying sonic journey, but by album’s end you’ll be happy you took the ride.