The subtitle of Low Leaf’s latest album, Palm Psalms, promises that most elusive of salvations: “a light to resolve all darkness.” But as this benighted calendar year limps to a close, the electric harp and piano of the Valley-raised singer offer a temporary salve to toxic wounds and psychological deceptions.
“I just want to spread a little bit of light,” Low Leaf says. “There’s a lot of fucked-up shit going on in the world, and I’m not saying it can heal everything, but I believe that music can change people, or at least plant a seed in their mind’s eye to help direct them closer to where they need to go in life.”
She mentions an anecdote about a New Zealand friend who sent a video of her 9-year-old daughter listening to Palm Psalms, hunched over, reading the lyrics and almost crying. It’s evidence of the innate capacity of music to touch those too young to grasp the meaning of lines like, “I’m in the world, but I’m not of it.”
The lyrics are largely unadorned and straightforward, designed to be cleansing ablutions, audible daydreams, animistic hymns to sun, moon and space.
“I wanted them to be applicable to any era. These are just fundamental truths that I learned along the way,” says Low Leaf, born Angelica-Marie Lopez to parents from the Philippines. “They all came from a personal place, but I tried to make it super general so that everyone could look within in their own way.”
She wears a pendant of Lemurian quartz around her neck, a metal bracelet around her forearm and a purple, floral dress. The tattoos on her arms represent the 13 tones of creation and convey a poemlike story of her family history.
You could see Low Leaf leveraging her innately mystical sensibilities into savvy self-branding, if she had the inclination. She has collaborated with Flying Lotus and could theoretically be the new-age beat scene Joanna Newsom. But she’s avowedly experimental, eschewing pop structure for more free-flowing, spiritual explorations.
“I’ve been trying to develop more spiritual discernment,” she says of the last year and a half, a period that included a devotion to reading books on spirituality and leading sound baths. “When you’re fucking with tarot cards, you can channel forces that appear as light but aren’t really what they seem.”
If this seems quintessentially Californian, that’s probably accurate. But Low Leaf radiates a sincerity and musical talent that upends any clichés. If others are aimlessly floating in search of light, she seems to possess the vision to find the on/off switch.
The album title comes from a biblical verse that goes: “Wake up, my heart! Wake up, O lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn with my song.” The songs possess an almost ancient and modern quality from the merging of harp and beats.
There are plenty of ways to battle the bleak feeling that’s swept the country in this barren year, but music will always remain one of the best coping mechanisms. For at least 45 minutes, Low Leaf’s beautiful work allows for an ephemeral flight from surreal realities.
“With this record, I felt like a warrior of love tuning into a divine heritage,” Low Leaf says. “Since its completion, I’ve been tuning into other things, like plants and fairies — a different frequency, and the music has evolved with it. But these songs are testimony to a period I spent battling darkness. Sometimes you have to die to have a rebirth.”