Monday, April 29, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1732: The Beaches

Welcome back to the CD Odyssey and the almost unheard of third blog post in as many days. I don’t know when that happened last but my best guess is…never. If you haven’t been around for a bit, keep scrolling down for 1) a review of the next record 2) a Concert Battle between Ice Cube and Katie Pruitt and 3) a review of Christian rock artist Miss Angie.

You know what you won’t find in this flurry of entries (or in any future ones)? The 2023 eponymous debut of folk/country artist Mikaela Davis and Southern Star. I gave that record my second listen on the weekend and was so uninspired I decided I couldn’t suffer through the requisite third that leads to a full review. Instead that bit of sleepy self-indulgent tune-making is going straight to the sell pile.

Faring much better is this next record- enjoy!

Disc 1732 is…Heights

Artist: The Beaches

Year of Release: 2014

What’s up with the Cover?  All these swirls and splashes of colour are a reminder that there are many kinds of art in the world. If you are wondering what this kind is, it’s the bad kind.

How I Came To Know It: As an avowed fan of the Beaches this was just me digging through their back catalogue. I picked this one up at the merch table of one of their shows. I bought a T-shirt as well. That could’ve been you, Katie Pruitt, if you’d brought merch to your show!

How It Stacks Up: Attentive readers will know that my Beaches discography is divided between two LPs and four EPs. I had held space for “Heights” to take spot 3 on the EP list but it was not able to achieve those…heights. Get it? Get it? As a result I must put this album in at #4. I still liked it, but I liked the other three EPs just a little bit more.

Rating: 3 stars

The Beaches just don’t make bad records. It isn’t in their DNA. This quartet of rockers have found a sweet spot midway between catchy and crunchy and they ride that wave like a professional surfer. So while “Heights” isn’t as consistently strong as some of their other work, it has plenty to recommend it.

The album’s best track is the first one you hear. “Strangelove” has an insistent frenetic energy that makes you want to drive a car and drive it fast. The song has the tough girl delivery of the Shangri-Las with the benefit of modern amps and more guitar. 

Like most great Beaches songs they artfully know when to strip away the instrumentation and leave space in the song for a guitar riff here, a drum beat there, alternating from thick arrangements full of power and interludes that let you appreciate the component pieces that make it all happen. Jordan Miller’s vocals are also a star here. Her phrasing is impeccable and her slightly lower register is sweet and tough in equal measure.

Strangelove” is followed by “Little Pieces” which is thicker and demonstrates the generally more saturated sound on “Heights” compared to some Beaches records. This song is rougher around the edges, but the band still knows how to navigate perfect timing as drum, guitar, vocal and bass come in and exit the mix in a rock and roll symphony.

The next two tracks (“Zsa Zsa”, “The Dance”) also have these qualities but they aren’t quite as hook heavy. The Beaches are so talented at writing catchy rock and roll that when I get songs like these, which have a busier sound, I find myself longing for a bit more separation. They aren’t bad, but they didn’t hold my attention as well as the album’s opening.

The album ends with “Hey, I Love You” which returns the band to form, once again demonstrating their talent for making hook writing seem effortless (note: it is not). “Hey, I Love You” has three or four musical ideas going on and does a solid job of amalgamating them into a thematic whole. Ultimately, I wanted those ideas to drive to a stronger melodic conclusion, but I still enjoyed the journey.

Like most EPs of the “good” kind, “Heights” was over far too soon for my liking, but it had plenty to recommend it. While not as consistent as some of their other EPs, it is a worthy entry in the catalogue of a great band.

Best tracks: Strangelove, Little Pieces

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