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La Luz

Mia Joy

Sun, October 6, 2024
Doors: 7:00 pm

The Atlantis
Washington, DC

Tickets are non-transferable until 72 hours prior to the show time. Any tickets suspected of being purchased for the sole purpose of reselling can be cancelled at the discretion of The Atlantis / Ticketmaster, and buyers may be denied future ticket purchases for I.M.P. shows. Opening acts, door times, and set times are always subject to change.

La Luz

“I was in a dream, but now I can see that change is the only law.”

With a credo adapted from science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, an album title from a collection of metaphysical poetry, and an expansion in consciousness brought on by personal crisis, guitarist and songwriter Shana Cleveland learns to embrace a changing world with unconditional love on News of the Universe, the new full-length from California rock band La Luz.


News of the Universe is a record born of calamity, a work of dark, beautiful psychedelia reflecting Cleveland’s experience of having her world blown apart by a breast cancer diagnosis just two years after the birth of her son. It’s also a portrait of a band in flux, marking the first appearance for drummer Audrey Johnson and the final ones from longtime members bassist Lena Simon and keyboardist Alice Sandahl, whose contributions add a bittersweet edge to a record that is both elegy for an old world and cosmic road map to a strange new one.

But is there any band in the world more suited to capturing the chaos of change in all its messy beauty than La Luz? Formed by Cleveland in 2012, La Luz is beloved for their ability to balance bedlam and bliss, each new record another fine-tuning of the band’s mix of swaggering riffs with angelic vocals borrowed from doo-wop and folk; a band so reliably great that it makes the huge step forward in confidence and sheer musicality that is News of the Universe all the more formidable. Cleveland, also a writer and painter, has developed into a truly original songwriter with her own canon of haunted psychedelia that, in recent years, has drawn upon the changing landscape around her rural California home for inspiration, notably on last year’s critically acclaimed solo release, Manzanita, a magical realist documentation of her pregnancy and early motherhood that appeared on many year-end lists.

Yet if Cleveland has spent years writing songs about ghosts, what lurks in the shadows of News of the Universe is nothing less than death itself. “There are moments on this album that sound to me like the last frantic confession before an asteroid destroys the earth,” says Cleveland.

Sonically, the record is all urgency. Songs trip over themselves as if trying to outrun the apocalypse: the breathless pitter-pattering of toms on “Strange World,” the title track’s finger-tangling opening riff drenched in murky distortion. An atmosphere of doom hovers hazily over the Sgt. Pepper-esque baroque pop song “Poppies,” on which Cleveland sings of a wavering orange idyll about to be set ablaze by the late summer sun. On the similarly kaleidoscopic “Dandelions,” she figures the yellow flowers for unsuspecting “little suns” soon to be “turning into moons” as the season marches on. The synthesized sounds used on the band’s last record, 2021’s La Luz, to mimic the languid buzz and crackle of a summer’s day in the countryside have been cut adrift in space—now they are silvery comet tails, dapplings of space dust, showers of stars.

These earthy observations are inspired by Cleveland’s walks around her home in the shell-shocked days post-diagnosis when she found she had to be very intentional about what she consumed. “Seeing the cycle of life, seeing things grow out of decay, the decay of other living things—was super comforting to me. I had to get to a place where I felt more comfortable with the idea of death,” she says.

But for every moment of fear, there is one of pure ecstasy. Shimmery chamber pop song “Blue Moth Cloud Shadow” puddles into a twinkly organ-driven reverie; “I’ll Go With You” starts out with the record’s sludgiest riff before turning into its prettiest song. “Always in Love” is a real power-of-love ballad that serves as the record’s centerpiece and is capped off by a fiery and jubilant guitar solo, Cleveland’s own “November Rain” moment.

The powerful sense of openness that permeates News of the Universe is at least partially due to the fact that it is a record made entirely by women—from the performing, writing, and producing all the way through to the recording, engineering, and mastering. “There is something inherently and simultaneously sweet and brutal about womanhood,” says Cleveland. “That is something I hear on this record.”

Working with producer Maryam Qudos (Spacemoth), the all-female environment allowed Cleveland to feel safe tapping into difficult places and expressing hard emotions women are socialized to suppress. “Having that kind of connection and that comfort straightaway let us push it further,” she says. “We didn’t spend the first half of the session being careful not to offend someone’s ego.”

Qudos also helped shape the songs, bringing ideas to the table “that to me felt like choices that I would not normally make, but I was really stoked about,” says Cleveland, pointing out that the dubbed-out effects on “Moon in Reverse” were all Qudos. “Sometimes she would have ideas about the structure of the songs, which a producer often doesn’t really mess with. But as a songwriter herself, I think she felt really comfortable with us.” Their working relationship was so organic that Qudos has since joined La Luz full-time on keyboards to replace the departing Sandahl.

Unashamedly vulnerable, unabashedly feminine, and undeniably triumphant, News of the Universe is another knockout record from a band so reliably great that it has perhaps led people to overlook how pioneering La Luz really are: women of color in indie music forging their own path by following their own artistic star into galaxies beyond current musical trends, always led by an earnest belief in the cosmic power of love and a great riff. Never is that more true than on News of the Universe, which might be La Luz’s most brutal record to date but also their most blissful. After everything, how could it not?

Mia Joy

Venue Information:
The Atlantis
2047 9th St NW
Washington, DC, 20001

815 V ST. NW WASHINGTON, DC 20001 • PRIVACY POLICY • EMAIL: • PHONE: 202.265.0930