Beachwood Sparks – The Tarnished Gold

Artist: Beachwood Sparks
Title: The Tarnished Gold
Label: Sub Pop
Rating: 8.0

Los Angeles alternative country band Beachwood Sparks are to release their first album in ten years at the end of this month. Album The Tarnished Gold follows a break for the band members who have each been working on other projects since 2002. Formed in the nineties when singer/bassist Brent Rademaker and guitarist Christopher Gunst met playing in the band Further, they recruited two more members in the form of drummer Jimi Hey and singer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Scher in 1997. Hey left and the line-up has been shaken up a few times since then leaving Gunst, Rademaker, Scher and drummer Aaron Sperske and support from guitarist and friend Ben Knight (The Tyde) for this release.

The band re-united in 2008 to play at SB20, Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary. And now with the release of their fourth album, the band are no doubt hoping to make more noise in the alternative charts. “I didn’t feel an urge to jump back into that scene,” Scher says of his initial ambivalence about picking things up again with Beachwood Sparks. “By 2003, I felt like we’d played our hand. We’d done anything that was in front of us a few
times over. When you start out in a band like that, you really are a clubhouse and you’re a synchronized unit in terms of what you do with your time. But there’s a natural point when you outgrow all that. Some bands just play through it and figure it out, but in our case it went into hibernation.”

With a sound reminiscent of a more country and less high pitched The Shins mixed with Ryan Adams, Beachwood Sparks are back. The thirteen track album opens with the whimsical number “Forget The Song”. Lead singer Scher proclaims; “Forget the song that I’ve been singing, lay down the way I’ve been holding”. “Sparks Fly Again” is perhaps a self referential track; “music is a home to return to, the sparks fly again”. “Water From The Well” is a flowing, peaceful tune about feeling free whilst “Talk About Lonesome” has more of a country vibe with lyrics about being drunk and lonesome. “Nature’s Light” is full of delicate strings and soft vocals and another dose of reflective lyrics; “Is nature’s light the same as mine? When I see you, do I see me?”. Indeed the whole album has a soft, considered feel that makes it hard not to enjoy.

“No Queremos Oro” is the loudest track on The Tarnished Gold and, like the title suggests it is sung in Spanish with a guitar sound and rhythm to match. The title translates as “We don’t want gold”, a funny, humble contradiction to the album title. “Earl Jean” has some great electric guitar riffs whilst “Alone Together” features the

use of a harmonica. The band serenade us out with a series of harmonious goodbyes in the shortest track on the album, “Goodbye” . Like the rest of the album it is simple and effective and speaks of a summer full of long days and lazy afternoons. Lovely.

Reviewed by Heather Welsh.

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