10 March 2011

Beachwood Sparks - 2001 - Once We Were Trees

Quality: 4 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

For their follow-up full-length album, Beachwood Sparks decided to take the old school double LP route. The band has made a few alterations to their sound, which end up pretty much being a zero sum game, but at least keep things sounding different. The songwriting has definitely matured since the debut album, but it doesn't always have the hooks that penetrated your brain on that one. I think the band probably realized that Chris Gunst's unadorned voice wasn't always the best idea, and they slather a bunch of reverb on much of this music. It does sound psychedelically groovy, but it's at the cost of some of the crisp late 60's L.A. sounds that the band recreated so well on their self-titled album.

The band front loads this album with their most hooky material - the rockin' psych hoedown of "You Take the Gold" will become stuck in your head forever, while the band nails their Byrds and Buffalo Springfield homages right of the bat with "Confusion is Nothing New" and"The Sun Surrounds Me," respectively. Later on, the band presents their best echo-chambered ballad on "Close Your Eyes." On this disc, the band ventures a little more into psychedelic freak out territory with some awesome wall of cathedral sound passages in "Let It Run," some full blooded weirdness on "Juggler's Revenge" and the properly epic title track. But this album got attention upon its release due to the left field cover of Sade's "By Your Side." Really, it's not the best thing on this album, but it is nicely appropriated to the band's sound and pretty entertaining.

Beachwood Sparks managed to both mature and find some new sonic territory on this LP - at the end of the day it stands on a pretty even keel with their debut. It seems that in 2011, this band has been all but forgotten, but there are plenty of sounds that will make this a welcome surprise.

1 comment:

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