Shana Cleveland & The Sandcastles Oh Man, Cover The Ground
Published May 22, 2015Fans of surf-rock quartet La Luz may be caught off guard by this quasi-solo offering from founding member Shana Cleveland. The long-gestating Oh Man, Cover The Ground (reportedly in the works since 2011) will definitely not be confused with a La Luz record. If that band's It's Alive was 20-foot swells and choppy seas, then Oh Man, Cover The Ground is like a hazy sunset comedown — more hang loose than hang ten, if you're into extended surfing analogies.
Oh Man… is decidedly less immediate and accessible than La Luz's more poppy output, but both bands share a retro vibe, with Cleveland & The Sandcastles trading in La Luz's Ventures references for a stab at late '60s/early '70s-ish folk. I was at times reminded of Jackson Frank, and the press materials specifically mention Cleveland's affection for John Fahey. The record features chilled out, casual-sounding songs with a nice lo-fi warmth and lots of lazy fingerpicked guitar. With sparse backing instrumentation and a bit of a lethargic pace, though, things unfortunately start to sort of blend together after a while.
It's a bit of a cop-out to criticize an artist's solo record for not sounding more like their other band, but I would have welcomed a few more La Luz-esque hooks to liven up the proceedings. That said, the record has an intriguing hint of melancholy and even menace (see eerie closer "Change In The Ocean") that elevate it when things occasionally begin to drag. Those looking for standout singles and sing-along choruses best search elsewhere, but for fans of downtempo folk, there is a lot to appreciate here. (Suicide Squeeze)