This group from the Echo Park area of Los Angeles finds common ground between lovely, jangly alternative pop-rock and modern Americana—the opening tune "Si Es Por Amor" touches on both—while Argentine-born singer and pianist Jacqueline Santillan alternates effortlessly between Spanish and English. After two EPs, this is the project's full-length debut, and it's a welcome effort.
Luces del Sur was produced by Tucson's Craig Schumacher at his world-famous Wavelab Studio. Schumacher recorded the album too, with right-hand man Chris Shultz; Calexico member Jacob Valenzuela sits in on trumpet for one tune. Santillan writes the tunes with Matthew Beighley, who provides vocals, guitar, charango, keyboards and percussion. This excellent, sometimes luminous album draws on musical traditions both culture-specific and universal.
How else do you explain the psychedelic blues garage stomp of "Covina Park," the billowing, melancholy pop of "Winter Lights" or the expansive neo-noir Western mood of "Trouble"? Then there's the gorgeous "Leymah Contra los Diablos," which with its dramatic arrangement will crowd your senses with guitar noise, a vaguely spaghetti-Western feel and the multitracked voices of Santillan and guest singer Ceci Bastida.
The music sometimes shows Santillan's Latin influences, such as on the Andean-sounding "Jornaleras," and she sings like an angel throughout. Perhaps her best performance comes during "Bad Night," a slow waltz that proves she can belt out a tortured torch song as well as Neko Case. When she sings, "Since you've been away, I'm only half of me," you believe it.