Beachwood Sparks

The Tarnished Gold

Sub Pop

Nearly a decade after their breakup, Beachwood Sparks return with their third full-length studio album.

The dreamy pedal steel guitar is intact, albeit not played by Farmer Dave Scher but by Dan Horne (Mezzanine Owls, The Street & Babe Shadow), who filled in for the unavailable Scher when the group reformed for Sub Pop’s 20th-anniversary concert in 2008 (Scher instead plays keyboards and guitar). Also supporting the “classic” quartet in the studio are Ben Knight (The Tyde) on guitar and returning 2001 tour guitarist Neal Casal (a solid solo artist in his own right).

It’s as if time stood still while the band was on hiatus. “Gold” picks up exactly where “Once We Were Trees” left off — except there are way more guitars (electric and acoustic, including the occasional banjo, mandolin or lap steel), and everyone brings experience from their interim side projects: Scher and original drummer Jimi Hey’s All Night Radio; bassist Brent Rademaker’s Frausdots; and guitarist Chris Gunst’s Mystic Chords of Memory.

With three singers, BWS has never been wanting for Byrdsian harmonies; in fact, they’re even more pronounced this go-around, especially on numbers such as the proclamatory “Forget the Song,” the collectively autobiographical “Sparks Fly Again” and the cross-faded one-two punch (if such a thing is possible for a laid-back, Cosmic American outfit) of “The Orange Grass Special” and “Goodbye.”

Other notables include the “this one’s for you, Gram Parsons” title track; “Water From the Well,” which really does go down like a long, cold drink of subterranean H20 on a hot summer day; and the jingly-jangly “Earl Jean.”

1. Forget The Song
2. Sparks Fly Again
3. Mollusk
4.Tarnished Gold
5. Water From The Well
6. Talk About Lonesome
7. Leave That Light On
8. Nature’s Light
9. No Queremos Oro
10. Earl Jean
11. Alone Together
12. The Orange Grass Special
13. Goodbye

Total time: 43:48

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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El Capitan

What Ails You


Poco meets Pink Floyd?

El Capitan, a San Francisco-based group of modern-day space cowboys, are on to something. After all, David Gilmour used a pedal steel on “Dark Side of the Moon’s” opener, “Breathe.”

Or is it Grateful Dead meets Yes? “What Ails You,” El Capitan’s first full-length, features a generous dose of fuzzed-out lap steel, sounding somewhat like Jerry Garcia’s “American Beauty”-era pedal steel; and its lyrics are esoteric enough to earn the Jon Anderson Seal of Approval. Get a load of this slice from “Silo Song”:

Salt wind dash along a pastel plain
On the feathers of an immigrant constellation
Over the siren flyways of the mariposa lane
Above an outta-place silo for the alpine grain

Rounding out the group’s well-thought-out, much-practiced sound are electric, resonator and acoustic guitars; banjo; harmonica; keyboards; accordion; violin; bass; and drums. But don’t let the rustic lineup fool you: This is about as far from bluegrass as possible.

Whatever planet El Capitan is from, rest assured they come in peace — to grab listeners with a tractor beam of solid musicianship, rural themes and laid-back melodies, and transport them to the far corners of the cosmos. At least until the CD ends.

1. Manzanita I
2. Osage Orange
3. Bonny Doon
4. May
5. Metronome
6. Cat’s Cradle
7. Silo Song
8. Key Of K
9. Manzanita II
10. Fare Alone Sound
11. Clementine Bells

Total time: 35:47

External Tracks
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Miles of Music

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Backdoor Men

Mohawk Combover 

Handsome Productions

All right, punk. You better get over here and listen to this reunion album by the notorious Backdoor Men. What’s that? You never heard of ’em? Where you been, livin’ under a rock or somethin’?

Well, maybe it has been 20 years or so since these participants in Cleveland’s late-’70s rock scene disappeared after their first reunion, under the name Napoleon in Rags; which followed a split into two groups — Terry & The Tornadoes and The Bombers — after their first three years of existence. Are you following this?

Fact is they worked that town’s punk circuit from 1977 to 1987 in one form or another, inspired by local acts the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu.

Now they’re back, on disc at least, taking their second chance with a batch of new material that reflects all their phases and influences: punk, psychedelic, blues, garage and folk.

They’ve still got their chops — and their attitude. So check it out before I mess you up.

1. Take Me Away
2. Cultural Insanity
3. Not Fed Up With You Yet
4. Bus Station Gyration
5. I’m So Fucked Up
6. Fuck The French
7. Hallelujah I’m A Goofball Bum
8. Pure Heart
9. Oklahoma Jack
10. It’s So Strong
11. Knockin’ ‘Em Down
12. Everything Is Killing Me (And There’s Nothing That’s Worth Dying For)
13. Well Of Rage
14. Shit Outta Luck
15. Go Home Party Boy
16. End of the Line
17. Eve Of Destruction

Total time: 46.2 minutes

External Links
artist’s website

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The Polyphonic Spree

Together We’re Heavy

Hollywood Records

What do you do next after folding your rock group following the lead guitarist’s drug-related death?

If you’re Tim DeLaughter, you take a year and a half off to have a few kids, then round up the surviving members and add a pair of keyboardists, a percussionist, flautist, trumpeter, trombonist, French horn player, violist, cellist, Theremin player, electronics wizard and choir of 10.

Then you take your songs of love and joy and start playing gigs, with everybody wearing robes. As you develop a fan base, you sell homemade CDs of your demos that were recorded in three days. Next thing you know, those demos are officially released as your first album.

Two years and a sitcom guest appearance later, armed with a major record label deal, you head for the studio to record the follow-up — only this time you take three months. The result: a fantastic, surreal, cheerful and uplifting epic of symphonic proportions that, for all its mega logistics, still comes off sounding refreshingly simple.

1. Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)
2. Section 12 (Hold Me Now)
3. Section 13 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion To Majesty)
4. Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)
5. Section 15 (Ensure Your Reservation)
6. Section 16 (One Man Show)
7. Section 17 (Suitcase Calling)
8. Section 18 (Everything Starts At The Seam)
9. Section 19 (When The Fool Becomes A King)
10. Section 20 (Together We’re Heavy)

Total time: 57.7 minutes

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iTunes Store

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StarTime International

Right out of the gate, dios makes their musical philosophy clear: There isn’t a lot of music worth listening to these days, and the best music was made in the late ’60s and early ’70s, so quit wasting your time looking for the next big thing and just groove.

Some might argue that the next big thing is ’60s/’70s-sounding bands, but this Hawthorne, California-based quintet mostly avoids being derivative. When they are, it’s in an alternate-universe kind of way and nobody minds.

Preferring to concentrate on the psychedelic era, dios channels the Beatles, Pink Floyd, hometown favorite sons the Beach Boys and — slight detour here — Neil Young. The lone cover song on the CD is Young’s “Birds,” from “After the Gold Rush,” and they give it a more country sound with some tastefully employed steel guitar.

In a nutshell, “dios” is a well-executed balance of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, melancholic songwriting and plaintive harmonizing, making it one of the best debut records in a long time.

1. Nobody’s Perfect
2. Starting Five
3. The Uncertainty Of How Things Are
4. Fifty Cents
5. All Said + Done
6. You’ll Get Yours
7. Birds
8. You Make Me Feel Uncomfortable
9. Just Another Girl
10. You Got Me All Wrong
11. Meeting People
12. All My Life

Total time: 49.7 minutes

External Links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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