After being involved in the local San Francisco music scene for some years, the duo L&K, consisting of Leah Walters and Konane Sky have released their debut record, Promised Land. Mixing elements of soul, blues, rock, folk, psychedelia, the six-song album is an adventurous exploration of spirituality, loss, and beauty. Recorded at a couple of Bay Area studios, including the legendary Tiny Telephone Studios, the album is clean, precise, and full-bodied. Sky and Walters handled production duties as well, and their vision for these songs has turned out remarkably well: managing to balance old-school rock sounds with the presence and clarity of modern rock.
Lyrically the album weaves between loss and the aftermath of that adventurous exploration, or as Walters recently put it “Much of the content of the record is of great love and expectations falling apart and trying to figure out how to process that loss and move on afterward.”
Promised Land begins with the slow-burning “Man From New Mexico,” which starts with a delicate piece of clean guitar from Sky while Walters soars over the top with her high-powered vocals. The song conjures up a distant western theme before launching into a grooving slice of hard rock. What immediately stands out to the listener is the great sense of dynamics: each instrument has its place in the mix and adds to the song, particularly the snappy grooves from studio studs James Riotto and Jason Slota, whose propulsive rhythm section give the song lots of attitude.
The next two tracks “Pacem” and “This is Yours” feature some excellent piano work from Walters along with some evocative lead guitar work from Sky. Both songs settle into a gentle mid-tempo groove, drawing in the listener and then holding their attention throughout.
The following song, the title track is the emotional core of the album, a seven-minute-long epic that details the struggles of living in a newly gentrified San Francisco. The song encapsulates the frustration many musicians, filmmakers, artists, and writers have been feeling this decade as the tech explosion in San Francisco, and the entire Bay Area have made the cost of living soar to such unprecedented heights that many have had to leave the area altogether. Musically speaking, “Promised Land” combines dark and driving rock with soaring vocal melodies, alternating between the two before the ending coda, an impressive piece of dark psychedelia that features some brilliant guitar work from Sky and deep, chorused backing vocals from Walters before finishing.
The final two songs: the morose ballad “Sleep” and the gripping blues-rock of “Flight” close out the record showcasing L&K’s musical diversity and their ability to blend the two extreme sides of their sound in impressive fashion. “Sleep” is a delicate piece that relies on the fiery interplay of Sky’s echo-drenched guitar and Walter’s evocative vocals, while “Flight” recalls old-school gospel-influenced rock, with Walter’s showcasing the deep lows and soaring highs of her vocal range.
What makes Promised Land succeed as an album is L&K’s ability to maintain a balance of gritty intensity and serene calm, which gives the record a great sense of balance. Lyrically and musically, Promised Land has a lot going for it, with the album’s diversity and strong songwriting making it one of the most enjoyable listens of the year.
Listen to “Man from New Mexico” by L&K.
Buy Promised Land here.
Photo by Jeff Spirer.