The Upshot: Tucson musician, with overtones of Yo La Tengo, Galaxy 500 and the Verlaines, imbues its tunes with a handshake-and-a-hug quality, inviting you to come into his world.
BY FRED MILLS
Originally a 2014 vinyl-only release from NC’s Fort Lowell label that landed on yours truly’s year-end best-of list, Sunrise For Everyone has, remarkably, not only retained its sonic and lyric charms, it’s arguably even a better listen now. This is partly due to familiarity; it’s hard to beat the joys of picking up a favorite record for the first time in some while. But it’s also due to a kind of ineffable timelessness, testimony to the Tucson group’s songwriting and arranging smarts—which of course are credited largely to leader Andrew Gardner. The album has now seen release on CD (remember them?), picking up a bonus track in the process.
What should you expect if you have not heard it? For starters, there’s a musical flourish coming about two and a half minutes into “Sunrise For Everyone,” the title track of Tucson group La Cerca’s new album, that provides a small but telling glimpse into what makes the band tick and also what potentially makes this the feel-good album of the summer—if not the entire year. Following a low-key intro powered by a subtly urgent guitar jangle and pulsebeat-thrumming bass, the band expertly springboards off the tune’s dynamic and into a starburst of ecstatic strums, pounding percussion and joyous “ba ba da baaaa…” voices. That they do it again later in the song, this time with peppy horns playing the aforementioned vocal line, only serves to cement the melody and rhythm in the listener’s mind, already primed by the optimism suggested by the songtitle.
It’s as if every great indie pop band you might care to cite, from Big Star to Yo La Tengo to Galaxie 500 to all the great Flying Nun bands (Clean, Verlaines, etc.) of yore, had held a summit in order to formally pass the torch to this small band of Arizonans.
High praise, indeed—bordering on, I realize, hyperbole. That those legendary groups are among my favorites and that they seem to share a deep musical kinship with La Cerca mainman and songwriter Andrew Gardner, however, only bolsters my critical regard for the music he and his compatriots create. Every track here bears sonic fruit: the swing, swagger and serendipity of the reflective, pedal steel-inflected “Sorry XO”; the stately tumble of the almost gospellish “The First One”; the angular and elegant extended jam that is “Mountain Villager,” what with its Television-meets-John-Fahey vibe; and the subtly majestic “Weather Festival,” that, incredibly, manages to distill the vicissitudes of desert weather into six rousing, dynamics-rich minutes of psychedelic blissout. (That’s not a stray observation. Point of fact: Gardner told BLURT that “I had an idea that I wanted a record to be somewhat weather-related, or atmosphere- related. It’s taking another meaning into desert rock, if you will. We’re making music that is reflective of the land, or the atmosphere. ‘Weather Festival’ is a perfect example: it’s a sunny day and you end up in a very different place. It can change your mind. It can change everything.”)
Incidentally, the aforementioned bonus track is a gem, in no way the kind of throwaway or afterthought that bonus tracks often are. Titled “Kissface,” it’s got a kind of Yo La Tengo-on-shoegaze vibe, running for nearly seven minutes and awash in chiming guitars and strafing synths.
Singing in a warm, confident, almost blue-eyed-soul voice, Gardner imbues his tunes with a handshake-and-a-hug quality, inviting you to come into his world which, per the album title, is an inclusive one. An array of Tucson musical artisans is part of the extended La Cerca family, ensuring that the sense of collective purpose is palpable. It’s not hard to tell when all the musical pieces of a project came together for its creators; there’s a peculiar quality of simpatico-ness that peeks through, and this holds true even when it’s a project born of darkness (say, Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night).
This one, though, is all about letting the light shine through. If you missed the album first time around, do yourself a favor and grab a copy now. It’ll leave you glowing.
DOWNLOAD: “Weather Festival,” “Sunrise For Everyone,” “Arizon”
Go HERE to read the BLURT interview with Andrew Gardner of La Cerca. We’ve also got a spiffy audio track you can listen to while reading.