SAN DIEGO IS THE ENDLESS SUMMER. It's a desert forced into bloom, a land of manmade bays and year-round flip-flops. Its clubs are full of bros in pooka shell necklaces grinding up against leather-skinned beach bunnies to the '90s alterna-rock that never stopped playing on the local stations. The always present—but never thriving—indie scene is relegated to house parties, neighborhood dives, and all-ages venues tucked away in the trees on college campuses, all of this making it an unlikely birthplace for the ever dark and wistful Black Heart Procession.
Arguably one of the best bands to come out of Southern California, the Black Heart Procession has been churning up harmonic melancholia since 1997, when members Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel back-burnered Three Mile Pilot to concentrate on the project. (A new Three Mile Pilot album is in the works, their first since 2000.) Filling out the band's sound is an indie all-star cast: Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), Jimmy LaValle (the Album Leaf), Scott Mercado (Manuok/Via Satellite), and Matt Resovich (the Album Leaf). Half the band currently calls Portland home, so rehearsals and songwriting are split between here and their new recording studio, SDRL, in San Diego.
Black Heart's latest release, The Spell, is the band's fifth full-length and their best album to date. The Spell is more up-tempo than earlier recordings, but doesn't lose the cohesive soundtrack feel they're known for. Impassioned vocals are delicately hand-sewn throughout layers of nocturnal strings, rowing guitars, and rain-in-the-barrel drum lines, always haunting, always engaging. Jenkins calls The Spell "more mystic" and "political" than their last album, his double-entendre lyrics of war and love even more biting than those of the past.
Tonight the Black Heart boys will be joined by rollicking lo-fi crooner Dan Sartain.