La Luz — It's Alive (2013) YouTube Spotify
Surf pop sounds from Seattle. Very B-52's. Except with more harmonies. Pretty good stuff, actually. It's very easy to get distracted by the twangy reverb and surf organ sounds of the band, but those sounds wouldn't get very far without great song craft to back them up. And it's there among the fantastic drumming and precise harmonies that you will find something worth going back to every single time. The band's shtick never runs dry, and instead, these ladies seem to find genuine and unique inspiration in a style once deemed kitschy and throwaway. Wonderful stuff. And the new album is even better. Key tracks: opener 'Sure as Spring' and the otherworldly 'Call Me in the Day', which bends and melds the surf sound into something modern and altogether new
Lilys — Selected (2000) YouTube Spotify
Shoegazey sounds from Washington DC. If I've read a thing or two about these guys it's that they've changed sounds as often as they've changed band members — which is to say, very often. This EP collects up some recordings of "old" songs from the band's past catalogue that never found their way onto any proper album. It's decent. Not sure if it's that great of a first impression, but it's not awful, that's for sure. Key tracks: the twelve string lead on the opener 'The Any Several Sundays' and the seven minute epic 'Won't Make You (Sleepy)'
Cruel Summer — self-titled (2013) Spotify BandCamp
Kind of a jangly shoegaze sound from San Francisco. Modern dream pop done right, basically. All of the songs kind of fire on the same cylinder, so it may come off as a bit samey at first. But, listen deeper and there's layers to these tunes which allow for something like the emotional centerpiece 'Venetian Blinds' to come to the forefront. Really great stuff; wish they would release something new. Key tracks: the wonderfully affecting 'Venetian Blinds' and the noisy 'Skinwalker'
Monster Treasure — self-titled (2014) Spotify BandCamp
Wouldn't this album have kicked major ass in 1994? It's aloof, lowly mixed in vocals, recorded live sound and one size fits all guitar distortion would have been real crowd pleasers twenty years ago. Now, it sounds like a deeply nostalgic trip back to a time when something could simultaneously be noisy as hell and melodically accessible without there being any problems with such a thing. The rapid fire nature of the sequencing and similar production are kind of to its detriment, but it does make the really good songs stick out with relative ease. Of course it doesn't hurt that the album's highlight is the melancholy 'Bill Evans', which name drops one of Bill's best ever tunes. Good one, ladies (and fella) — certainly didn't see that coming. Key tracks: 'Bill Evans' is really the one that sticks out
Lorelle Meets the Obsolete — Chambers (2014) Spotify BandCamp
Hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, this is more on the noise rock end of the spectrum, but it's also got a definitely trippy shoegaze quality to it as well. Songs, too! Riffy songs for days. It kind of has a fuzzy, 60's garage sound to it in spots that really ups the trippiness. Vocals with lots of a echo and reverb on them and warmly distorted basslines are the order of the day here. It is kind of one-dimensional, but that dimension is a rather intriguing place, so I can dig it. Key tracks: the opening manifesto 'What's Holding You?' and the slow burning 'Grieving'
Ganglians — self-titled (2009) Spotify
Lo-fi pranksters from Sacramento. Some of these guys went on to form Fine Steps, and then later Tiaras, so I thought I'd get a little history on where some of my favorite recent finds came from. Some good songs, some free for all nonsense. When something is this lo-fi, it becomes an issue of not actually being able to hear everything because there's so much distortion. So, bummer. But, the quieter moments offer some peculiar tunes. Key tracks: 'Hair' and the most tuneful the album gets on the closer 'Stuck Under Town'