If there's one thing a person with a guitar is going to do, it's write a song about California. Sometimes, thank god, that person is Joni Mitchell; other times, alas, it is Kid Rock. 

Last week, Portlander Maria Maita-Keppeler threw her sunhat in the ring with "Pastel Concrete," a fuzzy indie rock thumper that catalogs the bewilderment she felt on occasional work trips to Santa Monica. "Pastel concrete, boardwalk peach / A condo named after a town in Italy," she begins, painting a dryly funny, impressionistic picture of the Golden State's famous contradictions over driving drums. In the chorus, things get simple and anthemic: "I can't afford your love," she repeats over and over, while the song tilts from salt-spray reverie to distorted surf rock.

Maita-Keppeler's band, MAITA, turned in one of 2020's finest records with its debut, Best Wishes, and output since then has remained strong. "Pastel Concrete" is no exception. Maita-Keppeler's brainy-but-legible lyrics are what always set a MAITA song apart, and quips like "I do not know you, but I know your fight / I hope the casting call goes alright next week" inject well-trod critiques of LA with wit and life.

In the false binary of Joni Mitchell/Kid Rock I invented three paragraphs ago, MAITA lands handily in the Joni camp. But rather than do the thing where a publication says "this is just like Joni Mitchell" every time a woman with a guitar releases music that's good, let me say this: MAITA's "Pastel Concrete" is nothing like a Joni Mitchell song, and you should give it a spin.

Check out the self-directed (and animated) music video below:

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