On March 10, songwriter, musician, visual artist, and writer Shana Cleveland (La Luz) will release her new solo album, Manzanita via Hardly Art Records. Today she drops the album’s opener “A Ghost,” a gorgeous, Mellotron-backed, angelic dirge. She wrote Manzanita while pregnant and shortly after giving birth and that experience informed a lot of her songwriting. Of today’s single Shana says, “I never really gave pregnancy and childbirth very much thought, and when I did become pregnant I was surprised by how much of a psychedelic experience it was. A subtitle for this album could be: ‘What to Expect When You Are Open to the Mysteries of the Universe.’ When I sat outside the house looking out across the field, the chemistry and shape of my body constantly changing, I understood that I was no different than the plants and animals around me.” The video was directed by Vice Cooler and aesthetically was inspired by the show Just for Laughs: Gags, a weird, wordless prank show that Cleveland loved and first saw on hotel TVs when traveling outside the U.S. She shares, “depending on your comfort level for symbolism, it’s a story of someone coming back from the dead to haunt their bff through cheap gags OR a metaphor for pregnancy OR a cautionary tale about colonialism.” Listen/share “A Ghost” here and watch the video here: Pre-orders for Manzanita are now available from Hardly Art. LP pre-orders through Hardly Art and select independent retailers in North America, in the U.K, and in Europe will receive the limited Maroon (colored) vinyl.
Shana announced Manzanita with the orchestral pop single “Faces in the Firelight” which Brooklyn Vegan called "gorgeous, pastoral.” The album, like her 2019 solo LP Night of the Worm Moon, is set back and away from the genre-recombinant garage pop of her band La Luz. On it she continues to play guitar and vocals; Johnny Goss, who has recorded all of Shana’s solo material and early La Luz recordings, and Abbey Blackwell (Alvvays, La Luz) play the bass; Olie Eshleman is on pedal steel; and her life partner Will Sprott (Shannon and the Clams) plays the keyboards, dulcimer, glockenspiel, harpsichord, and synthesizers.
The natural world greatly informs Manzanita, in part because that’s her workplace. Shana now lives in rural California and says “part of moving here for me was living somewhere where writing outside was possible all year.” The record was also recorded around the time of having her first child, an experience which made her realize that she is not separate from nature, that none of us are. “This is a supernatural love album set in the California wilderness,” Cleveland explains.
Manzanita’s songs tell the stories of moving to the country, starting a family, laughing for real at the same joke the thirteenth time you’ve heard it, and surviving heavy shit (this is the first release since Cleveland’s successful treatment for a diagnosis of breast cancer at the start of 2022). The lyrics are satisfyingly direct, with the buoyantly whimsical descriptions typical of the 1960s New York School of poetry. It’s peppered with the kind of unexpected turns that make the words more modern, and in their spookiness they are more West Coast. These are domestic scenes, and bliss abounds, but it’s more about the utter weirdness of being a creature than anything else.
Manzanita is subtle, powerful, and unafraid; Shana Cleveland’s strongest and most personal album to date.a ghost hardly art la luz manzanita shana cleveland