Following the release of a string of modestly well-received singles, Mesa Luna, the project of Vancouver-based Justice McLellan recently released his first full length album, Lash. Lash is a sophisticated and well-rounded release that evokes melancholy and self-doubt through a hazy and delicate blending of the shoegaze and dream pop tropes that have been prevalent in the past decade.
This styling is shown nowhere more than on the second-to-last track, Never Steady. The song is initially driven by pounding drums and droning synth textures with the sporadic dissonant and distorted guitar work ala Beach House before daintily balancing on McLellan’s soft spoken vocal work and equally soft piano stylings before triumphantly reemerging.
It’s the gentle moments on the record that resemble the emotions McLellan tries to evoke. The album is self described as being about trauma and the ghost like blur of everyday life post-trauma. This is represented through the shifting sound textures doused in reverb and set ablaze by a hot searing bassline on the track Woronoco.
McLellan also taps into different avenues of musical direction that are not as rewarding as the more conventional dream pop and shoegaze influences he draws upon. Don’t Let Go is a more upbeat track that pulls from the same cloth as dance-punk. In any other context the track wouldn’t come off as jarring, but when paired with the slow and brooding atmosphere of the rest of the album it sticks up like a nail that needs to be hammered down.
The album closer, This is Your Life dives into the deep end of post-punk rather than simply wading through similarly depressive genre. While suffocation and panic may be admitted themes and goals of the record, the forward facing approach McLellan took drowns out any nuance and subtlety that could have been garnered with the track. Instead of being a triumphant moment of whirling synthesizers or atmospheric soundscapes like the track As It Happened, the album closes not with bang nor whimper but with a trite and overused style that downplays the evocative nature of the rest of the record.
While McLellan refrains from drawing in stray influence, Lash is a hugely enjoyable release but unfortunately the album manages to meander enough that frequent listening may only consist of a select few tracks.
7.2/10 – Finding out that the sale price was off by a dollar