Thursday 17 October 2013

Boardwalk - Boardwalk

Album review by

In a way you have to feel slightly sorry for L.A. group Boardwalk. They formed as a duo last summer, but also count little-recognised third member Mark as a later addition on guitar. What Mike Edge and Amber Quintero have achieved in that time has been pretty remarkable. It might not be uncommon to knock out a debut album within a year or so, but to do so with such consistency and such lovely dreampop sounds takes talent. Two bands, also male/female duos, may make life hard for them. Even as news of their first songs hitting the internet was being spread, comparisons to Beach House were being made, and then the band that launched a thousand similar acts (including Beach House) arrived back on the scene after 17 years: Mazzy Star.

The comparisons are both understandable and almost inevitable. Is it unfair though, to talk about a brand new act in the same breath as one legendary duo and one of the most acclaimed pairs of recent years? Vocally it doesn't really matter who you are; Hope Sandoval and Victoria Legrand are in a class of their own. It's a struggle, but attempting to black out those bands when listening to 'Boadwalk' is the only fair assessment. Voice-wise, Amber can more than hold her own, and as with much other modern dreampop the vocals are blended into the mix, they don't sit at the front as a focal point like past bands. So the overall effect here is a dazed blend of surf guitar, dampened drums and percussion, synths/organ, reverb and effects, all creating a swirling cloud of wonderful sound, something we already knew from single 'I'm To Blame'. This sound will be in part down to recording on an original two-inch tape recorder used on early Motown tracks, and Mike creates much of the other equipment in their home studio himself.

'I'm Not Myself' shows this as good as any song, and the early '60s vibe they manage to absorb into the mix marks it as an early stand-out. But then the delicate, blissful 'What's Love' is another dreamy wonder; it's not about just the sound, that's simply the shroud in which these songs are delivered, and what songs they are. 'Crying' is a classic girl-group love song wrapped in mist with some neat guitar, 'As A Man' draws from similar influences and a few twangs add a great finish to the song. They sound more up to date on the excellent 'It's Over' and 'High Water', another stand-out. 'Oh Well' is a bit like being trapped inside one of The Raveonettes' dreams, and 'Some Things' shows them toning-down to a slightly sparser arrangement, interspersed with more classic production. Some may pass off Boardwalk as another in the long line of modern dreampop duos doing much the same thing. Well, those people would be wrong. Ignore comparisons and try to listen with a cleansed palate. This album has much more going for it than you might spot at first, and for a band just getting started, 'Boardwalk' is a mighty fine effort.

Boardwalk's website

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