Five of the Best L.A. Albums of 2014

Our favorite albums and the artists who produced them have little in common other than a shared hometown and an urge to explore

2014 has been an excellent year for music in Los Angeles, a year filled with new venues, once-in-a-lifetime live shows, and delightfully surprising sounds like the a capella folk of Moses Sumney, the sweeping electro pop of White Sea, and rapper Nocando’s tongue-in-cheek mediations on fatherhood.

Our favorite albums and the artists who produced them have little in common other than a shared hometown and an urge to explore. As ever, the best music out of L.A. represents the city’s deep eclecticism.

Jack Name – Light Show
When we profiled space rocker and avant-gardist Jack Name earlier this year, he explained that his debut solo record (he has worked under multiple aliases in the past) is a concept album about the “wooly bullies” who control the world. It doubles as a metaphorical takedown of poor education, Big Pharma pushing ADD meds on kids, and the societal imperative to conform. Oscillating between alien nursery rhymes and bombastic guitar-driven ballads, Name’s Light Show takes listeners on a spacey ride.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Flying Lotus’ sixth album You’re Dead is a masterfully crafted thinkpiece on the afterlife wrapped up in sounds and beats that are best described as the sonic equivalent of a Salvador Dalí painting. It’s impossible to adequately label FlyLo’s sound; as the artist whose real name is Steven Ellison told us a couple of years ago, he reluctantly agrees to call his music “electronic hip hop.” This intricate weave of audio treats rewards listeners who like to go a little deeper with each successive pass on the headphones.

Nocando – Jimmy the Burnout
James McCall, a.k.a. Nocando, is a veteran of the L.A. battle rap scene and Project Blowed in Leimert Park, but he displays more than a God-given talent for putting opponents in their place. On his sophomore solo album Jimmy the Burnout Nocando throws around deep-cut pop culture references in the same breath as he questions his own mortality and the reality of life as a young man raising a family. The controversial video for the single “Little Green Monsters” is a stunning homage to the movie Natural Born Killers.

Ty Segall – Manipulator
For a man who isn’t yet thirty Ty Segall has been incredibly prolific; since releasing his self-titled solo debut album in 2008, he has released a new album every year. After relocating from the Bay Area to L.A. last year, the Southern California native knocked it out of the park with this year’s Manipulator, a mind-bending rock album that straddles many of the spheres Segall has visited on previous albums. Far from a greatest-hits retread, Manipulator showcases a new maturity; some serious artistic chops have been fueling Segall’s years of dizzy invention. The standout title track that opens the album is like an acid drenched Beatles song staring into the sun.

Warpaint – Warpaint
Local favorites Warpaint are festival stalwarts who can be counted on for sublime live performances; with their diverse discography, all-woman line up, and hometown pride, it’s hard to imagine they could top themselves. But with this year’s self-titled album, their sophomore effort, Warpaint worm themselves further into our hearts with dreamy, melancholy, ‘90s tri- hop and R&B-tinged tracks. Lead single “Love Is To Die” is so evocative and moody it ended up in a Calvin Klein add before the album was released.