Beachwood Sparks 'The Tarnished Gold'

Updated: 6 Sep 2012

Time Out says

Rating: 3/5

Years before a heartbroken Justin Vernon locked himself in a remote Wisconsin cabin to pen Bon Iver’s breakout record ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and the Robin Pecknold-led Fleet Foxes blew the music world away with the lush ‘White Winter Hymnal’, Beachwood Sparks were the flag bearers behind a brand of soft-rock that had roots in folksy Americana and early ’70s surf-pop. The Los Angeles quartet burst onto the scene in 2000 with their warmly received eponymous debut album, but the band soon called it quits three years later after adding a more psychedelic sophomore LP and EP to their name.

Having paved the way for throwback group harmony-driven acts, Beachwood Sparks return for their first record in a decade at a time when the genre they helped push all those years ago alongside The Flaming Lips is on the rise. With a pleasant alt-country melody, opening number ‘Forget the Song’ certainly has its moments, but like the unfortunate name suggests, the track is uninspired. Certain sections of ‘The Tarnished Gold’ suffer the same fate; easy listening without being really exciting and understated to the point of forgettable. Thankfully, ‘Mollusk’, named after a surf shop in Venice, California where local musicians gather for jam sessions, boasts an upbeat twangy guitar-led chorus while ‘Water from the Well’ and ‘Talk about Lonesome’ deliver a satisfyingly gentle one-two punch.

When these West Coast crooners take it up a notch, like on ‘Sparks Fly Again’, their melancholic themes and retro aesthetics have a penchant to conjure up memories of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Throughout the record, Chris Gunst and gang never quite veer from the warm sounds and meandering pace that were established in their earlier efforts; they’ve found a sweet spot that is undeniably endearing and they’re sticking to it. However, you can’t help but expect more from an effortless four-piece that sound like they are on auto-pilot. Wong Boon Ken