I gotta stop listening to music while I’m driving…
Context can make or break the experience of discovering new music. Not a particularly huge fan of Deerhunter, I didn’t have much motivation to listen to that band’s guitarist/singer Lockett Pundt’s second solo LP as Lotus Plaza. I’ve had Spooky Action at a Distance on my iPod for a while before acquiescing and playing on 125 mile drive from the Willamette Valley to Bend for a concert and time with friends. My first listen was a rewarding one, the kind I usually take a decidedly suspect sideways interest in. Most of my favorite albums, like, ever, have been the ones that require a lot of listens to get the full effect. Spooky Action at a Distance grabbed me immediately and was unrelenting in its lyric beauty and wistful, easy-going pop romanticism. That drive to Bend is undeniably beautiful, and the tuneful, dreamy songs, were a perfect accompaniment as I ascended from the valley floor to over 4000 feet above sea level through the Cascades, a haunting, snow-filled partially burned forest into the high desert. By the time I got to Bend, and met up with my friends, Lotus Plaza was out of my mind as I prepped for the night’s festivities.
Turns out, the drive back from the city is even more breathtaking than the one getting there. As you leave Bend, an affluent city of 80 odd thousand, and head back through the Cascade Range, Mt. Washington is directly ahead for the first half hour of the drive back up the highway. Mt. Washington is not the biggest, the craggiest, or the most famous of the Cascades, but it might just be the most recognizable after Mt. Hood. Washington is primeval and impossibly sinister, and as I drove back on Highway 20, a storm was rolling in over the peak, casting a dark shadow down the mountain’s face just as the crystalline chords of “Dusty Rhodes”, arguably the album’s best track, kicked into high gear. It was one of those moments that after years of listening to music both with my amateur status intact, and then later as a “professional”, I rarely am lucky to experience as often as I’d like. It was perfect.
In addition to the improbability that Pundt would leave Deerhunter compatriot Bradford Cox with only the second best name in the group, Lotus Plaza does a lot of difficult things well. As a die hard shoegaze fan, going back almost 20 years now, I can say that Lotus Plaza ride distorted guitar melodicism as well as anyone since My Bloody Valentine (particularly on the aforementioned “Dusty Rhodes”), and with the added country/folk twang on this amazing track, Pundt can be marked down (in ink!) as the author of my favorite song of the year. And I say that with all confidence in June. There are at least four or five other songs on the record (“Eveningness”, “Out of Touch”, “Remember our Days”, to name a few) that are nearly as good. Lotus Plaza excels at melding roiling, heavy guitars with sugary sweetness, creating a gauzy cotton candy with a surprising amount of nourishment. If you spent a good portion of 2011 listening to Kurt Vile or The War on Drugs, you’ll be rewarded with Spooky Action at a Distance, and if you listen to Lotus Plaza under just the right conditions, you might even find yourself with a new favorite band.