La Luz‘s Shana Cleveland, Alice Sandahl and Lena Simon dream of a pastoral life growing everything they could ever need on a plot of land in the country. They want to escape the drudgery of office life and run through a pine forest, and climb over the mud and snow. Or, failing that, simply settle for retreating to the blue-screen glow of cartoons.
Ideas of escape run throughout La Luz’s fourth album, both as romantic ideal and as a means of withdrawing from a day-too-day that’s best left behind. It’s an all-too-familiar feeling in a post-pandemic life, a desperate need to be somewhere else. But it’s also one that La Luz have captured effortlessly since their debut album It’s Alive in 2013, their psychedelic surf-rock tones both fun enough to evoke a sense of adventure and harboring a sufficient level of darkness to suggest a level of peril and mystery beneath the aesthetic enchantment. On La Luz, that sense of an alluring elsewhere permeates its 12 tracks, as much through its spacious, hypnotic arrangements as through its lyrical daydreams.
To that end, La Luz feels like an escape in itself, the group’s increasingly psychedelic sound growing more adventurous and given an added sense of velvet-lush richness in collaboration with producer Adrian Younge. With each release, La Luz seem to stretch out even further, their latest full-length building on the stunning psych-noir of 2018’s Floating Features and enhancing its headphone bells and whistles. Yet the band’s growth goes beyond sonic atmosphere alone, the vocal harmonies and melodic left-turns of “In the Country” showcasing a sophistication in songwriting and arrangement beyond much of contemporary psych’s reliance on fuzz and echoplex, while “Goodbye Ghost” carries a timeless cool as much as it does a sense of rebel urgency. And the group’s never produced something quite as immersive as “Lazy Eyes and Dune,” a narcotic dirge that swirls in multi-colored smoke and gentle exotica tones.
It’s easy to get swept up in the intoxicating array of sonic flourishes in these 12 songs, some more literally transportive than others, but all of them crafted with a sense of organic warmth that Cleveland herself attributes to an intangible feeling of “love.” These are songs to get lost in and follow into strange and exotic places, all of which are among the best that La Luz has ever sounded. It’s not until “Here on Earth,” the album’s penultimate track, in which Cleveland drops the fantasy of being somewhere else and reassures her partner, “Just remember, I am here on earth to love you.” It’s such a simple, pure moment—a reminder that even as those dreams and visions of escape flash by, La Luz see the realization of that paradise with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Label: Hardly Art
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.