Beachwood Sparks “The Tarnished Gold”
So they’re back; full of sun and honey playing the kind of mellifluous harmony drenched music that could give even a Fleet Foxes fan toothache. A statement? ‘Sparks Fly Again’ beautiful harmonies purring like a cat backstroking in a vat of cream, pedal steel like strings of bunting trailing a fanfare and when it all seems too honeyed a guitar solo that flirts with dissonance but goes home to melody. From the first few bars you know this isn’t just a retread but something different, something better.
For all of their fireworks the Sparks are often at their best when they are at their most subtle. ‘Goodbye’ is just vocal harmonies and some acoustic guitar and ‘Nature’s Light’ is muted like the golden evening light escaping from behind a cloud and bathing everything in a liquid glow of wellbeing. This record is so strong on atmosphere that it easily wears away my reservations that I had about their return. They always did have something, and that something has become even more clearly defined here. The easy blend of country, folk and a kind of gossamer power pop has been distilled into something that is more enduring, as the songs become more blended they become stronger. The sparks may not burst into flames quite so often but the fire keeps burning for longer.
The opening ‘Forget the Song’ is a haze gradually clearing, a shimmer of summer mist, gentle breezes of guitar, washes of steel guitar, it’s moodier more drifting than their norm, and really quite lovely. The first few times I listened to this, I thought I’d be cute and use the line ‘Forget the song I’ve been singing’ from ‘Leave That Light On’ however after exposure the songs seep in, slip under defences. They are wonderfully constructed and executed so I have to use another line from the same song which is more fitting as this song ‘melts the winter in my heart’.