Stones Throw Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
From the moment I started listening to this debut CD by Los Angeles duo Boardwalk, an eponymously titled affair, I was filled with visions of mellow, angelic, ethereal and, at times, melancholy images in my mind. Not unlike the dreamy pop of acts like Mazzy Star, the angel-voiced Julee Cruise and a whiff of the legendary Galaxy 500 – minus the psychedelic atmospheric somatic loveliness as well as the sound of legendary indie label, 4AD. The scene was the summer of 2012, the place: L.A. Mike Edge and Amber Quintero were introduced by mutual friends at a get-together. At that moment, the two were both working on separate projects – Mike doing some production work and Amber lending her dreamy-angel voice, backing up other indie projects, there was no denying that some creative spark was ignited that summer evening.
The big test came via an “impromptu” road trip that Mike and Amber took together, a spontaneous cruise up the coast. One great result to come out of that first “collaboration” was the song, “I’m Not Myself”, the first tune they wrote together. So, the road trip comes to an end, but, the experience itself was merely a beginning of a friendship and the start of Boardwalk. It took a small bit of time, what with Mike’s desire to focus on building the perfect sound. That is actually something that is harder than it may seem, at least in this day and age, what with the fact that just about everything’s been done by now. But the best bands or artists that come along and have staying power are those who understand this and, since, unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in Utah – hahaha) you’re going to have influences – conscious or otherwise. Different bands use their influences differently. Some, whom I won’t name here, can be myopic and not take the longview and take into account what they will be doing, etc., 10-20 years hence. The ones who break the mold or melt it and re-form it into something that contains subtle nuances that work on their own thing yet, simultaneously, drop little hints here and there that have a somewhat similar tone; on one hand, staking a claim on their newly developed creations and on the other hand, avoiding complete alienation by adding a few familiar sonic scenes.
This debut is a light, sunny day, vivid work of beauty that seamlessly goes from track to track, enveloping the listener into a trance that keeps you rapt all the way through this 34 minute, 10 song CD. The aforementioned, very first song they wrote together, “I’m Not Myself” is the album’s opener which is followed by the forlorn, dreamy “What’s Love”, which has a heavenly vibe to it, a reverb’ed twangy, slow guitar noodling, using the bottom, low strings. “Crying” is a bit more “upbeat”, it has a certain cross between the lovely pop tunes of the 1950s with a modern architecture to it.
Of course, I could go through each and every tune on Boardwalk and deconstruct it, but let’s just say that the whole album is great. It’s a meditative, translucent and wonderful beacon to isolate with.
The production and musical “sourcing” is the work of Mike, while Amber’s astral, spherical voice glosses over it all, making this a fabulously perfectionist debut. Besides being a disc to sit alone with your thoughts or trying to escape them, Boardwalk is a great album to put on if you have your boyfriend/girlfriend over for a romantic evening: a candlelight dinner, dim lights, a bottle of 1994 Rhone wine and this CD playing plaintively, as an ambient backdrop.
Boardwalk is set to hit the streets in mid-October, being released on the terrific indie label, Stones Throw Records. If you are lucky enough to have an independent record store in your area, since, as far as I know, pretty much all the corporate chain record stores have gone out of business – just like the falling away of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and most other video stores (except, again, for those independently run stores that specialize in hard-to-find titles, cult classics, etc.), the same has happened to once familiar names like Tower, Sam Goody and The Wherehouse; this was all due to the effect that online stores like Amazon.com have had on the music/book/DVD marketplace. Now that one can purchase just about any CD, book or DVD that you can think of, online and have it shipped straight to your mailbox, there’s really no need for overpriced record stores anymore – that is, except for the still-thriving independent stores – a couple examples: San Francisco has (or at least, had, back as recently as 2000) two locations of the very, very excellent Streetlight Records and one of the best indie record stores -period, whose anchor/flagship store is on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA, Amoeba Records – their store in Berkeley is HUGE – it’s a giant store with a huge abundance of music. Next door to the Amoeba store in Berkeley is Rasputin Records, another giant indie store which, like all indie stores buy and sell used CDs and DVDs as well. But in 1999 Amoeba finally decided to branch out and they opened up a second store in San Francisco, on Haight Street, just next door to the McDonald’s which is right at the end of Haight Street, where Stanyan Street forms a “T” and one in a car has to turn left or right because straight ahead is the beginning of Golden Gate Park. But then – and how fortuitously – after I’d been living in Los Angeles for about a year and had just moved into the Hollywood area, Amoeba opened up a third store in a perfect spot: right on Sunset & Vine.
So, if you have one of these gems in your town – or near where you live – you’ll probably be able to find Boardwalk’s debut in a month or so, otherwise, just go to Amazon.com – they seem to have EVERYTHING – whenever a particular title pops in my head – something I used to have years and years ago but lost along the way, or just something that I’d recently discovered, I just go to Amazon.com and type in the album title/artist and invariably it shows up as available (the way Amazon.com works is that you find what you’re looking for, see it, then click on the picture of the cover and you’ll see all the various copies available at the wide network of independent music stores around both the US and even one or two in the UK – so when you order this or that album (or book), you can read from where the product will come from, which is the reason that there is literally a virtually unlimited group of suppliers that always seem to have the one you’re looking for.
Anyway, getting back to Boardwalk, this breath of cool air, this dreamscape that washes over you like a gentle breeze is a welcome addition to this fall’s lineup of new releases: check it out! –KM