The Coast is Never Clear

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If Beulah’s third album had been released six months earlier (or if we all lived in California with the band instead of on this frigid peninsula), we could all luxuriate in its summery pop bliss the way it’s meant to be heard. At a bonfire on the beach, most likely, or flying down the street with your windows open. Summer is long gone, so we’ll have to enjoy The Coast is Never Clear without the appropriate environmental trimmings.

Luckily, the album sounds great no matter what time of year it is. Like fellow nostalgia junkies Sloan, Of Montreal and the Ladybug Transistor, Beulah takes pride in updating the gentle psychedelic pop of the ’60s (and Brian Wilson’s timbre-drenched production) for the modern age. And frankly, they’re better at it than anyone. If songwriter Miles Kurosky had been around at the time of the British Invasion, contagious, upbeat songs such as “Popular Mechanics for Lovers” and the bossa-nova confection, “What Will You Do When Your Suntan Fades?” would be at least as well known today as “Penny Lane.”

Perhaps I’m overstating things a bit, but it’s easy to be overenthusiastic about this album. Beulah takes meticulous care in locating the perfect pop hook and marrying it to others. I’ve counted six distinct sections in “Gravity’s Bringing Us Down,” any of which would be catchy enough to anchor a song on its own. And then the band swaddles the whole thing in a blanket of horns, strings, guitars, vibraphones or whatever else is handy. All that effort did not go to waste; you’d be hard-pressed to find another album so full of giddy energy that you’re forced to reflexively smile through the whole thing.

E-mail Chris Willie Williams at [email protected].

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