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Album reviews: Darker My Love's 'Alive as You Are' and Chief's 'Modern Rituals'

August 16, 2010 |  6:49 pm

Chief_240_ Fans of Darker My Love’s brain-searing distortion showers will view its turn to ’60s psychedelia with an arched eyebrow. The L.A. band’s strengths have always been in their sculpted bombast, not in the charisma of Tim Presley’s voice or the group’s workmanlike melodies. The decision to invert that formula and put the songs up front (and dress them in ascots and bell bottoms) is an unexpected one.

“Alive as You Are” makes it a very different band, but not a worse one. The arrangements, as always, are totally immersive — the squalling lead lines of “18th Street Shuffle” and the organ rushes of “Dear Author” enliven the album’s long-since-tilled vintage vibes. Presley’s dazed, late-Beatles songwriting turns on songs such as “Cry on Me Woman” are quite adept, but the band still sounds better looking forward than backward.

The dapper Santa Monica quartet Chief has a similar affection for honey-hued California rock. But instead of hints of instrumental danger, the band trades in acres of vocal harmonies and super-saturated reverb. The woozy “Wait for You” will be scoring the closing-credits of teen television dramas for months, and the trilling guitar lick of “Breaking Walls” is worthy of a Ryan McGinley tableau of pretty young people cavorting in meadows.

“Modern Rituals” is a vibe record, and it could use a magic bullet single. But anyone fumbling under a car seat for the perfect thing to play while descending to the beach from Malibu Creek State Park should reach for this first.

— August Brown

Darker My Love
“Alive as You Are”
(Dangerbird Records)

Chief
“Modern Rituals”
(Domino Records)

Both: Two and a half stars (Out of four)

 Pictured: Chief's "Modern Rituals"


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