Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold
Having been away for 11 years, the anticipation of a new Beachwood Sparks’ album reaches its peak with the brushed symbols that start album opener ‘Forget the Song’. Then Chris Gunst’s soft vocal meanders in, and then the guitars amble into the scene; and we have the musical equivalent of capturing sunshine in a jar and hugging it.
That’s what Californian country music is supposed to sound like though isn’t it?
When they split in 2003 the music scene was very different to how it is today, with alt.country having moderate mainstream success. The question is whether Beachwood Sparks, with original line-up, can recapture the Sunday afternoon perfection of their earlier releases?
The strolling pace of the opener picks up on ‘Sparks Fly Again’, with shimmering guitars and a beautiful Beach Boys chorus layered with multiple harmonies. Indeed, the harmonies from bassist Brent Rademaker and multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher are a key element to the album’s sound. It owes a huge debt to the 60s folk scene, and there are even elements even Simon & Garfunkel on ‘Mollusk’.
The title track ‘Tarnished Gold’ is a highlight, with guitar parts building together with the understated rhythm section to act as a hammock for Gunst’s vocal.
Lyrically, the alt.country guidebook is roughly adhered to. These are ballads of loss and lament (“Fell in love with tarnished gold, that’s what remains when the ashes turn cold”), hope and salvation (“I love a happy ending”).
Thom Monahan’s lo-fi production captures all elements and gives the album a warmth that’s felt from the opening bars to the final coda of the lustrous ‘Goodbye’.
“Enough for me, enough for you, and then some” sings Gunst on ‘Talk About Lonseome’. That pretty much sums the album up. It oozes with enough summertime sunshine to make you want to just lie back on the grass on enjoy the warm breeze. But most of all, it will leave you feeling a little better about our golden, tarnished world.
Released June 26 2012 through Sub Pop
Posted by Kevin Scott
Tags: album review, Beachwood Sparks, Kevin Scott, Sub Pop, The Tarnished Gold