If there’s one artist that California songwriter Ivy Meissner most closely resembles, it’s Holly Miranda. That might sound like outrageous hype, but Meissner knows her soul and has a similarly deep dark side. A fantastic band behind her channels fifty years of Americana and soul music, heavy emphasis on the psychedelics. Lots of guitars on this album: besides the bandleader, there’s Julian Cubillos (who also produced). plus the distinctive pastoral jazz composer and big band leader Tom Csatari. Bassist Matt Rousseau and drummer Jay Rudolph keep a slinky, low-key groove going.
Drenched in various shades of reverb, Meissner’s voice shifts from icy nonchalance to cynicism to a torchy but inscrutable menace. She’s playing the album release show for her debut, Platinum Blues – soon to be streaming at Bandcamp – Saturday night, August 6 at 9 PM at Littlefield. Cover is $10.
That ominousness appears on the horizon with the first echoey, psychedelic layers of guitars and Meisner’s cool, but defiantly direct vocals as the bass rises to punctuate the sudden crescendos in the album’s title track, a vividly heat-drenched nocturne. Cubillos’ masterful, majestically sweeping production completes the picture. Forget Lana Del Ray – this is the real LA noir.
Talk At Me gives the band a chance to work all sorts of judiciously trippy tinges into a simple wah-guitar soul vamp, Meissner’s vocals processed like an extra on the Star Trek Voyager deck – and then suddenly there’s a detour into summery psychedelic folk. An opaquely atmospheric number, The Inkwell blends elements of acid jazz and hip-hop into the mix. The wickedly catchy oldschool soul-tinged 6/8 ballad Martyr is the closest thing to Miranda here – and also brings to mind a vastly underrated ex-Brooklyn songstress, Barbara Brousal. The band keeps the same slow groove going through False Tide, part Mazzy Star haze, part Throwing Muses growl.
A swaying, swirly update on vintage Memphis soul, Shelby features an artfully fluttery horn chart played by multi-reedmen Casey Berman, Levon Henry and Tristan Cooley from Csatari’s Uncivilized chamber jazz group. Hysteria Wisteria juxtaposes Meissner’s most sultry vocal here against Csatari’s playfully unsettled lines, shifting between straight-up soul and uneasy jazz.
The album’s catchiest and most anthemic track – the one that screams out “monster college radio hit” – is New Way to Break, a scruffy update on a classic Muscle Shoals sound. Rousseau’s bubbly bass and some jaunty flute take centerstage in the brief instrumental The Next Big Thing; the album winds up with the brooding ballad Undeserving, Meissner channeling equal parts ache and seduction. It’s seldom that a singer this individualistic has such a great band behind her, or that a band this good gets to back a leader who gives them so much first-class material to sink their teeth into.