Though their name might read more like your AIM screen name circa 1999, the duo known collectively as CommonUnion59 and separately as Steve McKenzie and Laura Malasig churns out the delightful sound of California pop set to heartfelt and downright joyful lyrics. Their newest effort, Heartbeat Serenade, features easy melodies, danceable rhythms, and flavors that skew Americana, Latin, country, and folk.

At its core, however, the record is classic singer-songwriter output with nuances that hearken back to when the genre was blazing hot in the ’90s. Opener “It’s Alright” starts the party with a sunny, reassuring pat on the back. CommonUnion59 prides itself on material that evokes the human spirit, often with positivity and introspection. You won’t find any depressing lines here, unless they’re used as a conduit to a deeper level of existence. Tracks like “The River Song” and “This Universe” simultaneously explore themes of isolation and togetherness, set thoughtfully to bending pedal steel and bright acoustic guitars. Meanwhile, the sunshine-poppy, jewelry-box rock of the title track finds McKenzie taking lead for a more psychedelic-folk turn. And, of course, there’s a Donovan cover (“Catch the Wind”), because why not? If the song fits…

Unsurprisingly, these two are mainstays on the San Francisco scene. So, if you like your NoCal-laden tunes classic, laid-back, and with an overdose of vintage good vibes, you’ve probably found your new favorite record in Heartbeat Serenade.

About the Author

Allison Johnelle Boron

Allison lives in Los Angeles where she is a freelance music journalist, jug band enthusiast, and industry observer. She is also the editor of REBEAT magazine. Find her on Twitter.

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