Beaches – Second Of Spring (2LP)
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Beaches' third album, Second of Spring, may have taken a long time for the quartet to make, but it doesn't take long to seep into the brain of the listener. The first three songs are droning, overlapping guitar jams with steady rolling drums, pulsing bass, and chanted vocals that feel like windswept, smoke-filled incantations and set the mood perfectly for the rest of the record. After that initial burst of almost-instrumentals, Beaches start sprinkling in poppier, more traditionally song-y songs along with the noise blowouts. "Be" rocks and rollicks like a lost Breeders track, "Calendar" is a heavy ballad with a wistful melody, and if "Arrow" turned out to be Elastica in disguise, it wouldn't be a shock. These are mixed in with dreamlike shoegaze ("Natural Tradition"), hazy, slowly unspooling psych ballads that conjure up memories of Opal ("Contact"), and some heavy jamming on "Wine." And that's only the first ten songs! The band could have stopped there and had something really good, but there are another seven songs after that , and they are even more impressive. It's almost like the band finished the album and then decided to add an EP's worth of songs that tweak the formula just a bit and turn out sounding even dreamier and poppier than what came before. Starting with the breezy, grungy pop of "When You're Gone," the songs that follow have very sharp hooks and fuller arrangements, with more dynamics and more insistent guitar work. The solo on the very Pale Saints-sounding "Golden" pierces the speaker cones like an arrow, and the rolling tremolo of "Walk Around" is a perfect counterpoint to the song's cheery melody and sweet vocals. That song also brings in some avant-garde sax wailing that shocks at first, but then seems a perfect fit. The last half of the album builds and builds in intensity, before it releases with the last song "Mutual Delusion," a long trip into the post-rock clouds built around a hypnotic bassline and glistening shards of guitar. It ends Second of Spring on a peaceful note, letting the listener relax a little after being assaulted by guitars for the previous hour. Maybe "assaulted" is the wrong word, "enveloped" may be a better choice. Whichever word one may choose, the record is a delight for lovers of psychedelic guitar interplay, and Beaches continue to be one of the best exponents of that sound around.