La Luz – It’s Alive

La Luz – It’s Alive

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Musical styles can migrate, like birds. It doesn’t happen all at once, a song here, a band there, but given some time to marinate, what was the groove in one place (if it’s any good) will find a foothold somewhere else.

We all know about grunge and Seattle, it’s a story well told, but in the last 20 years there’s been a movement away from the muddy guitars for a cleaner sound, moving from the dark into the brightness.

Leave it to La Luz to shine the way.

A four-woman group, La Luz mixes the Southern California surf sound of Dick Dale with recent bands Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast for music more attuned to flat boards than flannel. In its debut LP album It’s Alive, La Luz manages to navigate the musical genre without sounding too pedestrian, propelled by the sharp drumming of Marian Li-Pino and the throaty voice of Shana Cleveland, who embraces the ’60s-inspired sound like she’s hearing it for the first time.

The drums introduce the album, Li-Pino’s on point attack in “Sure As Spring” gets the groove going while Cleveland, sounding much like Debbie Harry, roams through the lyrics casually. Midway through enters an Alice Sandahl keyboard jam right up Ray Manzarek’s alley. It’s a song a little under two-and-a-half minutes but packs a lasting punch.

For the first full minute “Morning High” is a subtle yet concise instrumental, and it was probably best if it stayed that way. Once the lyrics enter, the track moves from intriguing to ordinary. The band adds an instrumental two songs later in “Sunstroke,” which proves a nice little gem. You have to appreciate a band for adding an instrumental on an album, it’s an underused practice that can give any LP a good palate cleansing.

And it does impart a shift here, as the band experiments a bit more in the album’s second half. “Call Me in the Day,” It’s Alive’s best track, is elegiac despite Abbey Blackwell’s bouncy bass beat, a song where Cleveland’s voice shines with understated tones. The darkness of Seattle’s rain clouds embellish the California sunshine beat — if La Luz does an album of songs such as this, it has a game-changer in its hands.

“Phantom Feelings” is another fine instrumental which leads into “You Can Never Know,” a rote song which ends It’s Alive on a dead note — it  sounds like one song too many.

But it’s not enough to take the shimmer off La Luz, which proves a sunshine surf beat can survive in the Pacific Northwest. It’s worth seeing where the foursome takes their sound from here.


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