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The name is a partial misnomer. Though the band hails from Los Angeles, they do not partake in any sort of witchcraft. Yet their ability to conjure a specific time and place through their sound does suggest a kind of magic. On their eponymous debut album, L.A. Witch’s reverb-drenched guitar jangle and sultry vocals conjure the analog sound of a collector’s prized 45 from some short-lived footnote cult band. The melodies forgo the bubblegum pop for a druggy haze that straddles the line between seedy glory and ominous balladry; the production can’t afford Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound, but the instruments’ simple beauty provides an economic grace that renders studio trickery unnecessary; the lyrics seem more descendent of Johnny Cash’s first-person morality tales than the vacuous empty gestures of pre-fab pop bands. This isn’t music for the masses; it’s music for miscreants, burnouts, down-and-out dreamers, and obsessive historians.
Album opener “Kill My Baby Tonight” is the perfect introduction to the band’s marriage of ‘60s girls-in-the-garage charm and David Lynch’s surreal exposés of Southern California’s underbelly. Sade Sanchez’s black velvet vocals disguise the malicious intent of this murder ballad, with the thumping pulse of bassist Irita Pai, the slow-burn build of drummer Ellie English, and Sanchez’s desert guitar twang helping beguile the listener into becoming a willing accomplice to the narrator’s crimes. “Brian” follows the opening track with a similarly graceful, if not somewhat ominous, slow-mo take on a well-worn jukebox 7”. It’s a vibe that permeates the entire album, from the early psychedelic hue of 13th Floor Elevators on tracks like “You Love Nothing,” through the motorik beat and fuzzed-out licks of “Drive Your Car,” to the grittier permutation of Mazzy Star’s sleepy beauty on “Baby In Blue Jeans."