Five Desert Albums to Hear in 2019
DESERT Magazine, February 2019
When most people think of popular music from the California desert, images of generator parties and the sounds of heavy stoner riffs usually arise. But over the last few years, recent albums emerging from the desert have a wider sonic palate; piano ballads, synthesizers, acoustic guitars, genre-bending hip hop and grungy alt-country are replacing the doomster sludge. Here are five desert albums to check out in 2019.
C’est Claire – First Lessons (Bandcamp)
Described as a “mystic mix tape that crosses genres” First Lessons is the full-length debut album by Landers resident Claire Wadsworth, recording under the name C’est Claire. Widely known as co-owner of the Flamingo Heights restaurant La Copine, the album was three years in the making, as Wadsworth – a Berklee-trained pianist – juggled her busy life as a restaurateur and songwriter/musician. A piano-driven concept album based on the signs of the zodiac, First Lessons is named after a poem by the late New Hampshire poet Phillip Booth. “[The poem] was found in my grandpa’s bedside table after he passed,” Wadsworth told me. “For such a religious man to have a poem next to his bible gave me hope.”
Earth Moon Earth – Earth Moon Earth (Gatos Trail Records)
Creating experimental and cosmic sounds, the band Earth Moon Earth write spacey, synth-heavy epics. Founded by record producer/drummer Dan Joeright (owner of Gatos Trail Recording Studio in Yucca Valley), Earth Moon Earth conjures up the cinematic excesses of Stanley Kubrick soundtracks and the early jams of Spaceman 3. In addition to the music, Joshua Tree native Gabriella Evaro contributes bluesy, ethereal vocals. According to the band’s website, their name “Earth Moon Earth” derives from “a radio communications technique…of bouncing radio waves from an Earth-based transmitter off of the Moon, and then back to an Earth-based receiver…”. The description fits. Stream this one on your next road trip to Wonder Valley.
Grant Earl LaValley - From Lavalley Below (Exit Stencil Records)
The narrators of Grant Earl LaValley’s moody masterpiece From LaValley Below are all searching for an elusive peace; lost souls wandering through a haze of acoustic guitars, cello drones and haunting vocals. A resident of Joshua Tree (by way of Ohio), LaValley’s story-songs borrow from the spare, jangly tones of widescreen spaghetti westerns, freak-folk dirges and quiet acoustic confessionals. Filled with many easy-to-miss touches like nature sounds, reverb-soaked guitars and strange, vivid lyrics, From LaValley Below demands repeated spins to uncover its spooky magic.
J. Patron – Ilegals en Ferraris (Puro Oro Records)
Born in Columbia and raised in the Coachella Valley since the age of four, J. Patron is a rising star in Southern California hip hop. Ilegals en Ferraris is a dense and complex record, mixing laid-back Cali style with Latin grooves and frenetic sampling. With songs in both English and Spanish, J. Patron’s rapping style is smooth and confident, with music that borrows from a variety of genres in strange and unique ways: horns mix with beatbox drum samples, ska guitar lines flirt with classical string sections, synth sounds from the 1980’s are everywhere. In less assured hands, this album would fall apart under the weight of its own experiments. But for J. Patron, it’s just another day at the office. Look for a new album and a tour in early 2019.
Cody White and the Easy Ride – Subtle Songs of Freedom
With its grungy guitars and raspy vocals, Cody White and the Easy Ride make the music of outlaws; songs for lovers on the run and cowboys pounding on the bar. The guitars burn with ragged glory; just back-to-basics Telecaster tones laced with gritty fuzz pedals. Subtle Songs of Freedom is a raw record, there’s no pretense, no hipster posturing or special effects. Just old-school roots rock, perfect for an all-windows-down drive on a lost desert highway.