Beachwood Sparks' "The Tarnished Gold"

Beachwood Sparks' "The Tarnished Gold"

  • Article by: Jon O'Brien
  • Posted: 06/26/2012

An entire decade after embarking on a hiatus, Los Angeles outfit Beachwood Sparks have returned to a music scene that is populated by the kind of “cosmic Americana” they perfected to little fanfare with their 2000 self-titled debut. 

With their classic line-up continuing to pursue the kind of breezy alt-country, West Coast rock and harmony-laden folk-pop that the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes have pushed into the mainstream during the bands’ absence, their long-awaited third album, The Tarnished Gold (6/25/12, Sub Pop) doesn’t exactly rock the boat. 

Opener “Forget The Song” sets the dreamlike tone from the outset, its gently-strummed acoustics, shimmering pedal steel hooks and muted rhythms instantly transporting listeners to the early 70s Laurel Canyon era, as does the delicate swoon of “Nature’s Light” and the slightly trippy “Water From The Well.”  

Elsewhere, the eerie atmospherics of “Mollusk” and the ghostly blues of “Leave That Light On” provide a welcome sense of unease amongst all the overwhelming prettiness, whilst the military march of “No Queremos Oro” and the galloping folk of “The Orange Grass Special” showcase a sense of mischief that’s perhaps lacking in some of their counterparts’ fare.

The jangly Byrds-esque “Sparks Fly Again,” (whose chorus bizarrely appears to have been lifted from “Greased Lightning”), and the shuffling country of “Earl Jean” prove they aren’t averse to the odd burst of radio-friendly pop. 

But The Tarnished Gold was never going to be too preoccupied with chasing hits, and whilst it may initially meander along without much sense of purpose, its slow-burning, lazy-Sunday-afternoon charms go on to unfold with each listen.

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