The Upshot: Harmony-strewn sunshine pop and elegantly jangling psychedelia for your perfect summer soundtrack.
BY FRED MILLS
Amid all the present-day lauding of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, it’s easy to forget that those steamylazycrazysexycool days of ’67 did not constitute a single discrete event—they were a collective state of mind. This matters, because one cannot recreate an event; by definition, it’s past, and it will remain in the past. (Just ask the people who misguidedly thought Woodstock ‘94—and, incredibly, the subsequent Woodstock ‘99—would be a good idea.)
You can conjure mental spaces, however, and for my money, the sophomore GospelbeacH album is not only perfectly titled, it’s a study in both perfect conception and perfect execution. For starters, examine the album cover: A young girl kneels beside her suitcase, gazing wistfully out a motel window, pondering the morning sunlight and what the remainder of her journey will hold. Flip the record sleeve over, and there’s the girl again, now attired in a bathing suit and floppy hat to shield her delicate pale features from the sun, standing on the shore, staring at the sea. Yes, of course it’s the Pacific coast shoreline, in all its promised-now-delivered allure. Another summer of love awaits her, and GospelbeacH will be her soundtrack.
The band’s debut album, 2015’s Pacific Surf Line, wasn’t shy about its Cali worship; two of GospelbeacH founder Brent Rademaker’s other groups, psychedelic warriors The Tyde and mystic Americana wranglers Beachwood Sparks, have shared similar sentiments. But Another Summer of Love is a remarkable achievement unto itself, brimming with such instantly memorable sunshine pop delights as “In The Desert” (with its jangly, warm chords, and breathy harmonies, it’s a sleek marriage of Byrds and Hollies) and “Sad Country Boy” (all 12-string, humming organ, and Mamas & Papas vocals). From the former track:
“In the desert there’s a thousand things I want to say to you
Stretched across the river run where the waters once flowed through
The sunlight on our faces
The pictures rolling by
In the desert there’s a thousand things I want to say to you…”
Even a nominally “darker” tune like the minor chord-powered psychedelia of “Strange Days” can’t help but feel ultimately optimistic as its protagonist works through a state of disorientation; when a trip ends, of course, a new beginning looms.
And if there’s a more perfect song for the Summer of ’17 than “Hangin’ On,” I don’t want to know about it. Here, Rademaker and his gang (which includes Jason Soda abetting Rademaker on guitars and vocals, Jonny Niemann on piano, organ, and mellotron, and Rademaker’s co-songwriter Trevor Beld Jiminez; plus a host of guests from the Beachwood Sparks, Wilco, and Eels extended families) have crafted a timeless tune destined to be on mixtapes throughout the hot months and beyond. It opens with a brusque chordal flourish, the rhythm section confidently laying down the path ahead on a heartbeat pulse, and then we’re off, a sonic starburst of guitars, keys, and harmonies, all melodic urgency and lyrical yearning:
“Hey baby what you running for?
There ain’t nobody chasing you no more
I turned around and you were miles away
You stole my heart and you got away with it.”
Yes, that is indeed a Springsteenian piano riff, and yes, that is indeed a Tom Pettyish guitar solo, each populating the tune. GospelbeacH knows how to take the good parts of classic rock and ignore the overwrought ones. As the song nears its conclusion, Rademaker nears his, too. Initially uncertain, he’s now prepared to make a leap of faith: “I’m hangin’ on, hangin’ on, but I’m ready to let go.” It’s a breathtakingly beautiful song.
Welcome to your own Summer of Love, kids. Make the most of it, because it will be fleeting. But with GospelbeacH as your summer soundtrack, it will be memorable. Perfectly elegant, at that.
Consumer Note: Talk about going the extra mile. The band and its label have conspired to create one of the most beautiful slabs of colored vinyl you’ll likely come across this summer (or, for that matter, the entire year). And in addition to the eye candy that is the sunburst splatter LP, the limited edition LP also comes with a bonus blue vinyl 7”, “Dreamin’” b/w “Change of Heart.” Life is sweet.
DOWNLOAD: “Hangin’ On,” “In the Desert,” “Strange Days,” “I Don’t Wanna Lose You”