L.A. Witch’s self-titled debut unfurled like hazy memories of late-night revelries in the city center creeping back in on a hungover Sunday morning. Guitarist/vocalist Sade Sanchez purred and crooned over jangling guitar chords, painting pictures of urban exploits, old American haunts, and private escapades with a master’s austerity. Bassist Irita Pai and drummer Ellie English polished the patina of the band’s vintage sound, adding a full-bodied thump and intoxicating swing to the album’s dusty ballads, ominous invitations, and sultry rock songs. The album had an air of effortlessness like these songs were written into the fabric of the Western landscape by some past generation and conjured into our modern world by three powerful conduits. The band readily admits that L.A. Witch was a casual affair and that the songs came together over the course of several years. That natural flow hit a snag when the band’s popularity grew and they began touring regularly, so a new strategy became necessary for their sophomore album, the swaggering and beguiling Play With Fire, available on August 21.

They’ve stridden boldly forward with the amped-up riffs and slashing fuzz lines of advance single “I Wanna Lose.” Even the song’s message, a celebration of defeat as a starting point for rebirth and redemption, wields a kind of gravity that feels new for the band. Over the course of Play With Fire, it feels like we’ve traversed the history of American rock n’ roll from its rugged cross-pollination of blues and country music, through the psychedelia of the ‘60s, into the early punk scene of the ‘70s, and landing at the damaged art-rock of early ‘80s New York City. The record is a bold new journey that retains L.A. Witch’s siren-song mystique, nostalgic spirit, and contemporary cool.

RIYL: Death Valley Girls, Bleached, The Coathangers, Dum Dum Girls, The Cramps, Slutever, The Kills, Vivian Girls, The Gun Club, Thee Oh Sees

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Label: Suicide Squeeze

 

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