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Beachwood Sparks | Once We Were Trees (Sub Pop/Rough Trade)
They may be from the opposite coast and draw their inspiration from an earlier chapter in musical history but Beachwood Sparks boast the super-cool credentials of The Strokes, presumably a view shared by the suddenly in-vogue Rough Trade. 'Once We Were Trees' consolidates the promise of 2000's self-titled debut, perhaps further enhancing the 'psychedelic' elements of their country-rock sound at the expense of the pure-pop jaunt of This Is What It Feels Like or Old Sea Miner from that record. There's a uniformity and maturity here, however, that suggests the band have found their feet, and through Thom Monahan's middle-heavy muddle of sound pounds a mighty, melodic heartbeat. Relegated to a b-side, The Sun Surrounds Me would be considered a highlight of any Byrds album, whilst the single, an unrecognisable cover of Sade's By Your Side, is inspired. Perhaps the highlight of the set is the outstanding country-soul hybrid of The Hustler, a soaring vocal atop a surging backdrop. The 'wall-of-sound' production and resulting lack of space do combine to make it a more challenging listen than expected (and it would probably benefit from selected pruning), but 'Once We Were Trees' stands tall.

Matt Dornan
November 2001