It had been a pretty rough two years for Low Litas. A finished record sat in flux, drummer Liz Wattoff departed for graduate school, a year of almost no shows it could have left the Tulsa outfit on life support before it ever got a chance to really live.
Thankfully, the band endured and is now in the midst of its first national tour (in support of Oklahomas own Broncho) with its full-length, eponymous debut finally out for the world to hear, a testament to the strength of lead singer/guitarist Mandii Larsen and bassist Penny Pitchlynns creative and romantic relationship.
The creative partnership is heard in how these songs have grown up over the past six years. When Larsen first started the band as a recording project, she was joined onstage with little more than a laptop. Solo shoegaze is a tough draw, though; it would take a superhero to whip up the sheer amount of volume necessary to emulate the heavyweights, as Low Litas so often strive to do with their first full-length outing.
OBE, Closer and Never all reappear after debuting on an EP recorded all on Larsens lonesome, and though their fundamental, haunting strains remain untouched, they are infinitely more polished and finished with Pitchlynn and Wattoff (who tracked drums for the album before amicably stepping aside and subsequently being replaced by Bronchos Nathan Price) at her side.
But maybe the romance is even more vital to Low Litas charms. Its an album predicated on love and vulnerability; lust, hostility and melancholy are all swirled into one maelstrom of guitar fuzz and piercing lyrics. Larsen and Pitchlynn stand virtually invincible together, ready to quell, conquer and overcome each and every trouble the two should face, hand in hand and note for note.
Its possible to write such songs with strangers or friends, but its much easier when the bonds run deeper, as heard in standouts like So Sure, Leave the Rest and Knocked Up Cheerleader. They and the bulk of the self-titled records offerings aim for the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Pixies and Slowdive and succeed because of the fervent passion and desire at the core of it all. Its the opposite of hollow gestures; these are densely real and emotional cuts that play like deep, late-night conversations about the possibilities of life and love.
Opener Busted is a little lankier and tonally stale, at least in comparison to the strong string of nine songs to follow. Closer is a little awkward at first, too, before quickly finding its footing and eventually contributing some of the biggest moments of the record as a whole. Go On, however, is Low Litas at their very best: 90s college- rock guitar twitches collide with a towering shoegaze composition in a way that suggests the band will thrive well beyond state borders.
Go On is followed by the quiet, acoustic-based refrain (and album closer) Delores, a pairing that becomes a literal demonstration of what and who Low Litas are, unmasking a tough, confident strata of noise to reveal the sweetly sensitive soul at its center.