Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: La Luz (Unwittingly) Built a Shrine to Themselves

The Best Band in Seattle enlist Ty Segall on production and go full Beast Mode.
By    August 4, 2015


Douglas Martin has a lot of love to give.

It’s Alive, the title of La Luz’s amazing first album, was the suggestion of birth. Perhaps not the proclamation Dr. Frankenstein made when his monster opened its eyes for the first time, perhaps the same in a different way. You know, what we mean when we say a certain artist or band is a “monster.” Though the dulcet, three-part harmonies and spindly guitar lines of the Seattle band — the city’s best rock group — may not outwardly project beast vibes. But when you’re sitting atop the throne of any city, let alone one with one of the best underground rock scenes in America (one that’s only getting better by the day), there’s a certain confidence you have to have out of necessity.

La Luz became the best band in Seattle really fast. Their ascent was already apparent on their stellar Damp Face EP, containing a track pretty much universally considered one of their signature songs, the indelible “Call Me in the Day.” By then — and with the help of the forward push and poetic melancholy of “Sure as Spring” and the even-more-pleasurably-sad “Easy Baby” — they already were the best band in Seattle. Then Hardly Art (my favorite record label for the past two or three years) decided to release their debut album. By then, they were going for Best Band in the Country status.

Then, they started to gain an even surer footing as a band. “What Good am I?” was a noirish early-R&B ballad, with singer Shana Cleveland’s voice . “Morning High” is practically a spaghetti-western anthem. And they had the benefit of re-recorded versions of “Sure as Spring” and “Call Me in the Day,” already better than what a vast majority of bands have on their debut tapes. Not only were they great songwriters, but they had personality, they were expressive in both their singing and instruments. They had found their voice at an alarmingly swift rate. People started to notice how good La Luz were.

Sparing you the backstory, the members of La Luz almost died. We came this close to losing one of the best bands we have. But thankfully we didn’t. And then they recorded their best album yet.

There are so many things on Weirdo Shrine where La Luz do certain things better than most bands. The vague menace toward the end of “Sleep Till They Die,” how they can still write a golden ballad on “I Can’t Speak,” how they pull the ripcord on “You Disappear” and let’s the guitar solo fly, how they bust out the barnburner like “Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine.” And then there’s “True Love Knows,” where the harmonies sound like how I imagine the sun rises, and they can still ride out instrumentals like “Hey Papi” (sadly, not a note-for-note remake of the Jay-Z/Timbaland summer jam of the same name).

And then, there’s their best foot forward. “I’ll Be True” sounds like what the vast majority of devotional love songs should sound like: Eerie and foreboding as fuck, just as much a veiled threat as an admission of a feeling.

Oh, and did you know Ty Segall recorded it? Ty Segall has recorded a lot of things at this point, a category laughably not confined to his own music, and most of it is exceptional. But he’s one of those producers who care about the band sounding like themselves and not sounding like him. He’s good in the idea that every instrument on the record sounds clear and colorful and the mood for every song sounds like what the song itself called for, and highlights how good La Luz is.

The fact that it feels like a reach to even mention the production at all is something every rock band should aspire to when recording an album. This record doesn’t sound like a “Ty Segall-recorded opus,” but it is an opus. A masterpiece blend of a handful of great influences: Surf, girl-group, even that tiny hint of psychedelia in the aftertaste of their music came from somewhere fruitful. This record sounds like La Luz making a bid for that list of Best Groups in the World. Beast Mode.

stream the album over at NPR

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