The Tarnished Gold
Label: Sub Pop
Catalog #: 70784
Some albums were made to be played on a Saturday night. The Tarnished Gold was meant to be played on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to Beachwood Sparks’ first album in 11 years is like being under cobalt blue skies and smelling the night-blooming jasmine on a perfect spring day in Los Angeles.
The world has caught up to Beachwood Sparks since they came out of nowhere in 2000 with their self-titled debut album, bringing new life to what Gram Parsons famously described as “cosmic American music,” and recapturing L.A.‘s laidback but vibrant heyday back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the time, this kind of harmony-rich, irony-free music was rare. After their second album, 2002’s trippier Once We Were Trees, and the decidedly offbeat 2003 EP Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks called it quits. But during the subsequent half decade, the indie music scene began to change with the appearance, and wholesale acceptance, of multi-voiced throwback groups from Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver to Grizzly Bear. Clearly, the time is right for an album that stands as the purest expression of this hallowed form to appear in the 21st century, as the planets at long last align for this single-minded band.
The Tarnished Gold is the work of the classic Beachwood Sparks lineup: singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske, with invaluable support from guitarist and longtime friend Ben Knight (The Tyde). For the sessions, the band added guitarists Knight and Neal Casal (solo artist and former member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), Dan Horne on pedal steel, Gunst’s wife Jen Cohen, Sparks’ very first drummer Jimi Hey, Brent’s brother Darren (leader of The Tyde) and L.A. indie-rock maestro Ariel Pink. Once We Were Trees producer Thom Monahan returned to his familiar spot behind the console.
The album finds the band, chemistry as strong as ever, pushing themselves to make a truly memorable record. “We’re treading in areas that we never thought we’d go on this record,” says Rademaker. “It’s great to be making the kind of music that I like with my best friends and favorite musicians. The triumph was not only that it came out so listenable and good but also that we made the most of just being together. And if this turns out to be the last Beachwood Sparks record, we can take satisfaction in the fact that we went out on a high note. At any rate, I know I’ll be listening to this record for the rest of my life.”
Vinyl includes mp3 download code.