Album Review: La Luz – Weirdo Shrine

La Luz are a gutsy band. After the release of their debut album, 2013’s It’s Alive, they had a near-fatal high speed accident in their tour van. That’s the kind of event that would leave many at a loss but La Luz soon went back to touring and wowing audiences with their unique live style.

So, we can add hardworking to gutsy.

It’s this Seattle band’s celebrated live energy that new album Weirdo Shrine perfectly captures. Working with producer/engineer Ty Segall and choosing a surf shop as the location to record, La Luz have achieved a rawer DIY sound on album two.

The band’s name is Spanish and means “the light”, but Weirdo Shrine is pure surf rock without the sun and waves. The melodies are mostly buoyant but these eleven songs deal with feelings of loneliness, infatuation, obsession and (unsurprisingly considering their own brush with it) death. While bands like Best Coast are producing albums that compliment the burn of the sun on your skin, this album has the smouldering warmth of being curled up inside by the fire. This isn’t surf rock that’s just for the summer. This album will still have you playing it in the autumn and all through winter until the sun returns in spring.

This enduring quality is due in no small part to the heat of frontwoman Shana Cleveland’s fuzzed-up guitar solos and the vibrant harmonies that accompany her melting lead vocals. This makes for a stronger sound than on their debut. Lena Simon’s thumping bass, the shimmering and sometimes seaside carousel inspired organs of Alice Sandahl and Marian Li Pino’s fizzing drumming also sound more brawny. All of this demonstrates a much more confident offering.

It’s also a varied sound. The album begins dreamily with the haunting Sleep Till They Die but rapidly ups the pace with You Disappear. On With Davey the sound is Latin-tinged and feisty and Cleveland tells us “life is short so take it slow”. Don’t Want To Be Anywhere is a surf-shack boogie juxtaposed with the slow dance by the waves (or more likely by the record player in the living room) of I Can’t Speak. These changes of pace are present throughout the 31 and a half minutes of this album. Hey Papi is raucous where I Wanna Be Alone With You feels leaner and meaner with Cleveland’s voice sounding almost casual and detached. After the pace has built to frenetic (from I’ll Be True to Black Hole, Weirdo Shrine) Oranges feels cinematic with its shimmering sound and everything is slow again for the simply stunning finale True Love Knows.
So, we can add diverse and addictive to hardworking and gutsy.

This is more than another surf-rock band having their moment in the sun. With Weirdo Shrine, it looks like La Luz will continue to burn brighter than ever.

Weirdo Shrine is released on 7 August 2015 via Hardly Art.

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