Los Angeles’ Lisa Marie Claire transports the listener to dreamy hooks and delightful harmonies in her outstanding album Canyon Drive. Along the way, she picks up melancholy steel guitar measures and some sprinkled synthesizer, giving her 11-track sonic journey a solid grading. From the haunting strings in the opener “Byronic Hero (Navigator)” to the poppy “Babe Why Don’t You” to the final track “God May Laugh”, Claire reveals herself to be an artist on the cusp of making major waves. Canyon Drive dives in and notches itself as one indie music’s best of 2020.
Canyon Drive isn’t a concept album, there are definitely separate chapters and nuances that give these individual tracks the foundations to stand on their own. That said, Claire’s wistful voice, at times almost raspy and sixties-flavored, is a character unto itself in her odyssey. I loved how Claire voice sounds so innocent in times and like in the third track, “High” she gives off the vibe that she’s no longer playing by anyone else’s rules. I think she evolves as the album continues, and it sneaks up on you by the time you get halfway. In track four, “Paper Letter” (which also happens to be my favorite on the album; don’t worry, I have several favorites) I liked how she has this matter-of-fact disposition. She’s pouring her heart out (gather all my thoughts…I thought I could say it better, she sings) and her vulnerability is so genuine. She’s still very idealistic and the charming tambourine in the background adds a unique tone.
Another one of my favorites, “Hallelujah, California” has endless brilliance. There’s a hole in my pocket and it’s taken me away…I was only on the run to be free, she sings. Sounding like someone about to embark on a new life, and putting the old one behind her, “Hallelujah, California” strikes a honey-dipped cord and a further amber-dipped texture. I loved the way Claire’s voice parallels the steel guitar, interweaving the melodies. It’s quite beautiful. Echoes of Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris and triumphs with a bit of Jenny Lewis. Lisa Marie Claire has it all.
And she continues to exert the same innovation and fun wordsmith quirks in “Words Of a Younger Self” and “Scouser”. In “Scouser” I sensed a more seventies music bed. I really loved the throbbing bass guitar. It’s slight and it’s a bit hidden, but it’s there. If you’re a fan of Eagles you will love this one, too. The guitar work in this has a faster tempo and the keys are just as bright. Her voice is so soothing and addictive.
If you’re like me and have a longing for the Laurel Canyon sound, or you find yourself wading in the cleansing waters of Dawes and plan your week around adoring harmonies, then Lisa Marie Claire is your ticket to a stunning sonic escape. I’ve been waiting all year for an album like this – and she’s proved to me that the best comes to those who wait. Canyon Drive is profoundly beautiful.