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When a press release starts throwing around terms such as “Laurel Canyon Sound” then I know that I am going to like it. Well, at least, I’m a target audience…whether I like it will depend very much on how fitting such a title is. After all, not everyone is astute enough to capture that trademark sunshine sound, the hazy harmonies, the gentleness, the deft and delicate ebbs and flows which are its real selling point. In short, the sheer nostalgic Southern California-ness is what it’s all about.
Thankfully Opal Canyon ticks all the relevant boxes and the term is perfectly apt as an indication as to what the band manages to capture in their music. Whether it is the lazy folk vibes of “Invisible”, which acts as a gorgeous stepping stone into their sonic world, the country-esque balladry, and chiming and charming piano lines of Come Ashore or the rootsy electric groove of the more upbeat, yet no less gossamer, “Moon Song Swing”, every move they make seems to be either considered, understated or perfectly placed,and usually all three.
But this is no mere nostalgia-fest, no act of plagiarism or plunder. No, this is very much the sound of a modern band paying tribute to a sound or scene from the past but doing so in a thoroughly modern way. It is also the sound of musicians tastefully exploring associated styles such as the happy hippy vibe of “Cool Adventure”. They even find room to fit in a cover of early era REM via a smart re-imagining of “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” here lifted out of its indie-rock ’80s home and deposited into an early 70’s cosmic country alternative timeline. To be honest, you should pick up the album for this track alone, and I say that as someone who regards Reckoning as one of the greatest albums of all time.
But, of course, that is just me planting a bit of hyperbole (all the cool kids are doing it) and there are so many other reasons to buy the album – the delicacy and space of the songs, the great harmonies, the tastefulness and understatement of the chilled moments, the infectious groove of the more upbeat ones and, which is what it all comes down to in the end, the quality of the songwriting.
Come for the cool cover, stay for the nine sublime songs which it has as its travelling companion.