Do you miss the beautiful harmonies and pleasant melodies of folk-rock icons Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Byrds, The Mamas and the Papas, the Moody Blues or the like? Well I do. (But then again, I still listen to those bands with some regularity.) Of course, there are plenty of bands drawing inspiration from these sources and reinterpreting/reinventing both folk-rock and late 60s psychedelia, such as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, whom I absolutely adore. But, these bands tend to add a modern layer that often distorts or modifies the purity of the sound, which makes listening to these songs a little “more work” like 20th Century Classical or Minimalist music. Where are the bands with an unabashed adoration and ability to replicate the wistful sounds of the late 60s? Southern California. Los Angeles to be precise.
On their newest record, Tarnished Gold, Beachwood Sparks starts right where they left off: the past. In fact, I think Beachwood Sparks actually spent the last decade (the last time they released a record, Once We Were Trees) travelling back in time to the 60s and imbibing as much of the atmosphere of that era because this record sounds like a lost relic of that time. Like many of their folk-rock predecessors, the songs are built around simple chords focusing and foregrounding the band’s vocals and harmonies, which are pristine. Although a lot of the songs are slow and meditative, the record has exquisite moments of upbeat brilliance showcasing their multi-faceted musical skills like the surf-rock, Beach-Boys-esque, “Sparks Fly Again,” the Southwestern Mariachi fueled “No Queremos Oro”, or the bluegrass tinged “The Orange Grass Special”. What ultimately makes this record so enjoyable if the languid and wandering ballads with flowery prose like “Mollusk” that evoke visions of large crowds gathered in ecstatic dance circles, whirling around to the music. In other words, the songs induce a sense of peace and tranquility – a perfect antidote to stressful day/week or a pleasant backdrop for Sunday morning daydreaming or summer night star-gazing. (Also, this might be a really great record to play for your parent or elder that says they don’t make “good music” anymore, by which they clearly mean I don’t understand the music nowadays because I’m out of the loop and so I’ll just call it bad.)
If you are ready to drift away, check out the Beachwood Sparks’ Tarnished Gold in its entirety here.
Note: How much BSparks sounds like Being There era Wilco on “Earl Jean”, which isn’t surprising given that records ode to 70s Americana and Rock.
For Fans Of:
- Beach Boys – post Pet Sounds, especially Wild Honey, Holland and the Smile Sessions
- Crosby Stills and Nash – post Neil Young
- The Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons – generally
- Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, On the Threshold of a Dream
- The Mamas and Papas – generally