Top Five Hits: Left of the Dial in Seal Beach
[Editor's Note: Every Friday, our resident record store expert Michael Chin checks in with his weekly report of what the hell people who still buy records at local shops are listening to.]
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This week we've got a lot of similar sounds coming from Left of the Dial Records, 1065 Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach, (562) 598-3666. Both old and new, revival and first LP, this week's top five covers a spectrum of times, linking together sounds from history and demonstrating musical influence throughout the past few decades.
5. Redd Kross, Researching the Blues (Merge)
Redd Kross occupy the same space in my brain dedicated to bands like Fountains of Wayne, '90s alternative poppers whose Beatles-inspired harmonies worked in the context of the quirks of two decades past. And the same fate gave way to both bands' respective hiatuses -- 2000s obsession with the chic new modern sound and the resurgence of electronic music buried the earnest oddness of these offbeat, alternative acts. And just like Fountains of Wayne, Redd Kross is back after a decade-long break from music with Researching the Blues, a revival of that early '90s sound that will appeal in a great way to the bands' old fans, though they probably won't find any new ones using the same old tricks.
4. Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop)
Last time we saw Beachwood Sparks' latest album was in July, and the chilled down, sunset-drenched sound seemed perfect for those summer days. But as the season winds down, The Tarnished Gold seems all the more relevant. It speaks to the merit of the versatility of the band's sound lasts through more than one season -- too often, country-folk can get pigeonholed into seasonal roles. The down-to-earth upgrade on a '60s folkiness fits well in the context of the new California Folk, a nostalgia that practically borders on anachronism, but in a good way.
3. The Sound, From the Lions Mouth (Korova)
Though the Sound released From the Lions Mouth over thirty years ago, its steady drum gallops and synth could belong to the sound's recent resurgence at the hands of more and more bands seeking to reclaim a Smiths-like sound that this band also represented. There are a few differences, yes, but short of a few wub-wubs in the mix and a whole bunch more reverb, From the Lions Mouth is definitely worth a listen for anyone curious as to where their music got its history.
2. Echo Lake, Wild Peace (Slumberland)
Speaking of those descendants of '80s synth-pop, Echo Lake's debut album takes some definite influence from the now-defunct genre. Using spacey Beach House-esque vocals and the aforementioned reverb, Echo Lake's band name is no misnomer -- the album literally sounds like it was recorded in an underwater cave. Different from the Sound or the Smiths, Wild Peace's muted, atmospheric twang may be so at peace that it puts you to sleep. Apart from being much more effective than those stupid white noise machines we see advertised on TV, the electronic touches on the album are delicate but noticeable -- a bit of bit crushed guitar goes a long way to produce a nuanced sound.
1. DIIV, Oshin (Captured Tracks)
Besides this band being so infuriating for autocorrect, it's clear why they take the number one spot this week. Oshin, the debut LP from DIIV, really slaps the reverb on strong -- not as atmospheric as Echo Lake's sound, though, and with much more recognizable instrumentation. The added presence of a real sound behind the reverb gives DIIV an edge over Echo Lake, though not one that will afford them too much mercy. The simple truth is that the amount of reverb on these albums makes them atmospheric music, which in turn, gets turned into atmosphere. The music becomes ignorable. Even though Redd Kross comes out of the gate with over the top, in-your-face guitar and campy harmonies, it's at least easy to pay attention to. That said, DIIV gets credit for naming their band after a Nirvana song -- I just wish they had employed more of the rebellious style Cobain & co. had in mind.