Shana Falana – Darkest Light
Described playfully by its maker as “druggy music by sober people,” Shana Falana’s Darkest Light is as full of mystery, contrast, and paradox as the title would suggest. The Kingston, New York songwriter and record-maker works her own deep niche in the psych-rock, shoegaze, and ethereal punk neighborhood. On Darkest Light, she converts all that weird, magical, and occasionally nasty energy into authentic messages of personal empowerment, rebirth, and redemption. “I’ve been around a while,” Falana says. “I was an addict. I worked on the fringe of the sex industry in New York City for two years. I know that even in the darkest lives, everyone still has their light. People still shine. Darkest Light is an album of mantras.”
A prolific veteran of both the San Francisco (‘90s) and Brooklyn (‘00s) experimental pop scenes, the Kingston, New York artist crafted Darkest Light with her core team of drummer Mike Amari and producer D. James Goodwin (Kevin Morby, Wand, Heather Woods Broderick). The committed, hypnotic primitivism of Amari’s drumming drives the sludgy and guttural grooves of standout tracks like “Come on Over” and “Darkest Light.” In a partnership now on its third release, Falana and Goodwin architect stormy, heavy, harrowing, and delicate layers of material sound without ever losing the thread of Falana’s slippery, exotic vocal melodies.
A tempestuous, rocking record, Darkest Light features moments of pure anthemic bliss pop (“Go Higher,” a song based on a Wiccan chant) and the fragile beauty of one drum-less and direct love song, “Come and Find Me.” After releasing a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Stripped” last year, Falana approached Darkest Light with a sense of owning influences as both homage and as secret weapons. “Everyone” begins with Slowdive-like shimmer blossoming into gnarly Sonic Youth-style rock. Some of the sublimated inspiration driving Darkest Light came from bands with whom Falana feels the kinship of time and place, like fellow San Francisco scenesters Thee Oh-Sees.
A female songwriter in her 40s, Falana is acutely aware of the challenges that mature artists face in a field characterized by youth, established reputation, and rapid turnover. “As in so many entertainment industries, the music industry feels like there is an expiration date on artists,” she says, “but songwriters get better with age. With all the cultural shifts regarding race, gender, religion, body image, maybe it is time to create an argument for ‘older’ artists as well. I’ve never hidden from the fact of my age, but now I feel ready to feature it.”