After an extended hiatus that found the individual members of Beachwood Sparks working on various side projects including forming such bands as the Tyde and All Night Radio, the California soft country outfit reunited for 2012's The Tarnished Gold. An elegiac, blissful, and melodic album, The Tarnished Gold finds the '70s-influenced band's sound maturing and deepening, while still retaining much of the melodic, hippie-dippy ramble-rock that makes them so charming. Produced by Thom Monahan -- who handled the band's 2001 outing Once We Were Trees -- the album features the original Beachwood lineup of singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske. Also lending a hand are the Tyde's guitarist Ben Knight, onetime Ryan Adams & the Cardinals guitarist Neal Casal, pedal steel player Dan Horne, and even L.A. freak folk mastermind Ariel Pink. Although Beachwood Sparks have long drawn favorable comparisons to such mellow West Coast luminaries as Gram Parsons, Poco, and others, here the mix of layered harmonies and hushed, late-afternoon balladry also brings to mind works by such similarly inclined contemporaries as Teenage Fanclub and Goldrush. Which is to say that while the band's sound here is undeniably influenced by the great West Coast folk-pop of the '60s and '70s, there is something contemporary and utterly present about the album, too. It's as if on the band's previous albums, they merely evinced making soft country-rock appealing, whereas here, much like their unexpectedly inspired 2001 cover of Sade's "By Your Side," given a second life on the 2010 soundtrack to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, they make it universally relevant, melodically buoyant, and guttingly romantic. And that's still with all the band's influences intact. In fact, cuts like the rollicking "Sparks Fly Again" and the poignant "Nature's Light" are organic and heartfelt moments that bring to mind the epic, cinematic moonshine of the Byrds' "Chestnut Mare" and Stone Canyon Band-era Ricky Nelson. Elsewhere, tracks like the bittersweet leadoff "Forget the Song" and the lilting "Leave That Light On" are gorgeously realized, glowingly warm productions, with hummable melodies and literate, heartbreaking lyrics. Ultimately, The Tarnished Gold is not just a perfect album for late summer afternoons, but also Beachwood Sparks' masterpiece. As Gunst sings at the start of the album, "Forget the song that I've been singing/Lay down the weight that I've been holding/Hope that spring melts the winter in my heart," The Tarnished Gold will melt whatever preconceptions you have about the band and leave you basking in the warmth of the summer of Beachwood Sparks' career.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar