Tragedy affects musicians, like anyone, in all sorts of ways; still, Tim Presley’s overhaul of Darker My Love after his father’s death is particularly unexpected. After two records of clamorous psych-rock, the group now winds the clock back 40 years for an influence-worshipping period piece. Recording in the famed Hyde Street Studios, Darker My Love borrows heavily from its past clients (especially Grateful Dead) and injects stretches of Beatles-aping, but even those tiring of the Blitzen Trapper/Fleet Foxes throwback sound shouldn’t immediately dismiss it: The styles and guitar work may be lifted from classic-rock radio, but the songwriting is impressively genuine. At times warmly sunny and loose and at other times coolly subdued, Alive As You Are is undeniably personal, with a depth lacking in the group’s previous reverb-soaked fuzz anthems. Giving momentum to this collection of pleasant melodies is new drummer Dan Allaire (previously of Brian Jonestown Massacre), a perfect complement to the new direction. Yes, some licks hew too closely to their roots—the end of the delicately dreamy “June Bloom” could be seamlessly transplanted onto Abbey Road’s B-side, “Split Minute” sounds like The Clientele covering The Byrds—and softer numbers (“Rain Party”) take too long to develop, but it’s all more fun and nuanced than the band’s previous output. Mostly, tragedy seems to have pushed Presley to make music he cares more about making.
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