Laena Myers “LUV (Songs of Yesterday)”

Taxi Gauche Records, 2024

Musically promiscuous LA scenester finally delivers her own story.

Laena Myers is an L.A. Session musician of renown, group member of purpose and authority and now, finally, a unique individual artist trading under her own name and showing the world her true colours, possibly. ‘LUV (Songs of Yesterday)’ is her first actual solo album after years of performing on other people’s records or in bands where she had varying degrees of responsibility for the sounds created. Her most widely known gig is probably as songwriter, singer and guitarist of post-punk Pitchfork darlings FEELS. She was also a cornerstone of Geffen signed The Like (who might just be the ultimate NEPO band, look ‘em up) as well as being the go-to-violinist on records by artists such as The Allah Las, Ty Segall, Shannon Lay and John Frusciante, among others.

The most extreme of all her previous projects was the uninhabitable electronic noise-jazz LP ‘Moon Drenched’ credited to John Dwyer and co. Dwyer is the man behind West Coast garage noiseniks The Ohsees and he and they are perhaps most renowned for having more band names than Pete Wylie, Mick Head and Daniel Romano combined. This shape-shifting has clearly rubbed off on our protagonist, who as well as her current incarnation has also gone by Laena Geronimo and Laena Myers-Ionita (LMI). She is clearly not kidding when she observes that she has “one of those brains that thrives on variety”. With her career to date being eclecticism incarnate, are we then to assume, given she is finally using her own name to release music, that what we have here is the truest, most honest / authentic representation of Myers the artist?

Is the direct and less embellished ‘LUV (Songs of Yesterday)’closer to the unadorned ‘Laena Myers’? The one who checks herself in the bathroom mirror every morning and likes nothing better than settling on the settee with her cats? Or maybe the gallivanting, wildly creative musical magpie is the real deal. We do get some of the free-form stylistic flirting on this record but it is entirely more coherent and focussed than her career to date might suggest. There are no goth-punk outbursts or 60s soul-pop interludes, the lacerating avant-garde violin scraping is absent and instead we are treated to a kind of low key front porch Patti Smith swapping Faye Webster’s beanie for Adrianne Lenker’s straw Stetson.

There is a kind of dream-like quality to the music here. It has heft but wears its different hats lightly, coming across as slight and introverted in places. The often fleeting melodies appear like blossoming condensation on a winter morning and sometimes you have to really make the effort to engage fully with them. It is worth the effort though as the songs come and go, bound together by found sounds (footsteps, birdsong…) and short instrumental passages into an engaging and lucid whole. The music is suffused with personality, it has rough textural surfaces and edges that catch our attention but also sometimes allows us to drift off into other spaces as it meanders in a slight, distracted way.

The songs on the record were all written by Myers over the course of the last decade and as such ‘LUV (Songs of Yesterday)’ is a highly personal record that represents the growth in her confidence as a writer. ‘The Choir’ is a gentle melancholy drifter with simple acoustic picking and a resonant violin scraping away to get our attention; together with ‘Bouquet’ we get a perfect expression of the contribution her violin playing makes to the album. ‘Splendor’ picks over the dry bones of PJ Harvey’s early records with the help of a fully functioning ‘tune-detector’ and there is an echo of Patti Smith in the catch of Myers’ voice in ‘Pulsar’. Most resonant of all perhaps is ‘Give ’em Hell’, which sounds like the Trinity Sessions minus the cavernous echo. In it Myers communicates tenderly yet powerfully (we get the Patti tinge again) about her recently passed father who urged his daughter to “Give ‘em hell, kid” before she stepped onto the stage. The song embodies the entire record’s spirit of courage and resilience.

The one real misstep is ‘kitchen humming’ where Myers’ growing confidence takes the record’s introspective unadornment too far with three minutes of spectral humming of the sort that might emanate from someone doing the washing up on a Sunday morning after a big but ultimately unhappy Saturday night. Even then though this remains true to the notion that the LP feels organic and unfiltered, grown rather than made, a natural and believable representation of Myers in 2024. It offers touches of spectral strangeness that if David Lynch were starting out on his career in 2024, would see him searching out Laena Myers as his next soundtrack supremo.

Ultimately, ‘LUV (Songs of Yesterday)’ is a precariously open and reflective LP. It engages with listeners in a tender way that is unafraid to be both vulnerable and optimistic. In doing so it offers an unfettered but carefully constructed depiction of an artist developing into a compelling writer and performer.


About Guy Lincoln 73 Articles
Americana, New Country, Alt-country, No Depression, Twangcore, Cow-punk, Neo-traditionalists, Countrypolitan... whatever.
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