Beach Day - Native Echoes

Hollywood, Florida’s Beach Day goes to the Lakes, taps Detroit’s Motown/“rock city” past for its sophomore LP.

Additional Info

6.8

ALBUM: Native Echoes

ARTIST: Beach Day

2014

Alternative

Despite an onslaught of 60s throwback, Native Echoes is insistent about avoiding the love song. Instead of the saccharine or embittered tropes of romance, Beach Day hones in on friends—the long-lost, romanticized, irritants of simpler times. If front woman Kimmy Drake hadn’t told you to your face before the sophomore LP release, chances are there’s a shout out with(out) your name on it herein. While there’s not a flattering portrayal in the bunch, it seems pertinent to mention that the nondescript stereotyped second and third persons of these songs are the same stick people that went to the suburban school district adjacent to yours, meaning the bull’s eye coextends from Hollywood to Hollywood Beach.

As native Floridians, Beach Day embraces its environs through the self-aware insertions of ocean sounds (waves recorded on BD’s local Hollywood Beach) and surf guitar (a somber homage to The Sandals). Native Echoes also spends a fair amount of time in the garage too, blending faux-callous noise rock with the conventions of Motown girl groups. Whereas contemporaries Dum Dum Girls have the expertise of Richard Gottehrer (co-writer of “My Boyfriend’s Back”) to refine its aesthetic, Beach Day’s collaboration with Jim Diamond, at times, feels like a three-legged race. While the album coheres through its lyrical themes, it disintegrates on more than one occasion due to the purely imitative 60s sonics—ambient organs, harmonic oohs, and a tumble of toms. Too beholden by its influences, Beach Day allows Native Echoes to repeat the pitfalls of 2013’s Trip Trap Attack.

There are a few moment of transcendence, though, as with album-opening single “All My Friends Were Punks.” Here, Kimmy Drake’s narration seamlessly integrates a second-person listener into memories of her own punk friends, a conflation as good as coherence. On “BFF’s,” the modern notion of un-friending a BFF is retroactively applied to hysterically passé girlhood activities (“don’t want to braid your hair”). The lyrical anomalies of these two high points interact with the minimalist composition while songs like “I’m Just Messin’ Around” and “Pretty” are over before they began. The brashness (“I’m just messin’ around and I like it”) and flippancy (“Who cares about being pretty?”) of these respective tracks fails to evoke a psychology that is commensurate with contemporary experience. Again, Beach Day traffics in the passé, but this time, passé is blasé. Regardless of these missteps, Native Echoes is still an apt addition to Kanine Records’ catalogue, which boasts LPs from likesounded Beverly and Surferblood.

“All my friends were punks / and we were stealing / oh the way, the way, the way / we were feeling / Ooo do you remember?”

1. All My Friends Were Punks
Tense matters in this song. The prevailing sentiment of this garage rock track—that of punk nostalgia—will jog time-stamped memories for the particular listener. The lyrics meaningfully fluctuate from the personal to the universal; the move from “all MY friends” to “do YOU remember” is not sloppy lyricism, but a meaningful rupture conveyed via Kimmy Drake’s dreamy ooohs, which allow for the listeners to imagine the inglorious punk kleptomaniacs from their idiosyncratic pasts. Drake is at her most commanding on this track, passing for Karen O. (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) albeit for a more traditional beach pop rock constitution.8.3
2. Don’t Call Me on The Phone
Beach Day’s affinity for 60s girl groups is most pronounced on this track as bassist Natalie Smallish provides classic echoic backing vocals of Drake’s imperative. It’s a familiar melody that’s undergone countless conversions from doo-wop to disco to pop punkers Nerf Herder, The Vandals, and MXPX, and now finds an apt home with this surf rock ethos. Stay away if you’re prone to subconscious lyrical recall in highly public places: this highly addictive melody will be spontaneously vibrating in your larynx (accompanying choreography may apply (see sultry finger wagging).7.1
3. BFF’s
As with “All My Friends Were Punks,” this song focuses on the ephemerality of friendship. The opening chords, strikingly similar to The Walkmen’s “Heartbreaker” in timbre and tempo, prove a languorous start to a ballad whose theme is friendship—though, more accurately, about the modern phenomenon of unfriending. In a bratty persona, Drake calls out a would-be friend in the listener (“if you’re mean right to my face”), calling it quits: “don’t want to watch a movie… any TV… braid your hair… put on makeup… be BFF’s.” The juvenilia may just be a parody of adult relationships (hinted at with egocentrism “‘cause I’m better”), or Drake is traversing the landscape of contemporary girl friendships, imbuing the classic 60s melody with contemporary lingo as might Best Coast.7.4
4. I’m Just Messin’ Around
This song is, as they say, frontin’. With an ambush of garage rock, Drake returns with her Karen O. swagger, but its aggression falls way short. With attitude that tries too hard and lyrics that don’t try hard enough, Beach Day falters to nondescript whimsy á la 90s girl rock revivalists The Donnas. The lyrics: “I’m just messin’ around and I like it. I’m just driving around and I like it. I’m just driving around and I like it. I like it, I like it, I like it, yes I do.” In expecting more from this song, I know I’m missing the point, but at least FIDLAR’s “Stoked and Broke” offers some cutting edge aggression with its flippancy.5.6
5. Gnarly Waves
In a return to the beachy vibes one would expect from the sophomore release of a band called Beach Day, “Gnarly Waves” offers up late-night fuzzed-out waves recorded at Drake’s favorite beach, Hollywood Beach. A quiet brooding rhythm guitar counters a reverbed Sandals knockoff (see Endless Summer). It contrasts nicely with all the “messin’ around” on the last track. Nature has the gravity humanity lacks.7.0
6. Pretty
Beach Day meanders into DIIV territory with momentary noodling and lyrical vacuity. “I know that you’re not pretty (uh-eh) / Who cares about being pretty?” The snarky first line (made twice as snarky with Drake’s “uh-eh”) is redeemed by the latter underhanded support. Leonard Cohen once said, “We are ugly / but we’ve got the music.” Beach Day touts the counterculture of beauty, territory we’ve lately seen from the likes of another woman front (see Alexis Krauss’s Beauty Lies Truth). The end of “Pretty” achieves a warpath guitar frenzied with feedback and Cave Singers style snare and kick drums, enough coastal dose to focus the sonic motif.6.0
7. The Lucky One
Had this song been written two decades ago, it could have been the score for Twin Peaks’ intense but unanchored character James. The cliché of a bad boy wearing a leather jacket and jeans, riding a motorcycle, brooding, alone, a ringer for the prototypical James (Dean, that is) is here synopsized as “you are the lonely one / you’re on the run / it’s such a lonely one / when your own your own.” While most of the song is categorically a 60s throwbacks (again, Best Coast comes to mind), Drake’s voice attains new power on this track, a Neko Case whose sold her twang for a pair of sumptuous uh-huhs.7.2
8. Fades Away
Adding spooky keys on “Fades Away”—maybe Jim Diamond has a salvaged Wurlitzer in his Detroit studio—serves to diversify Native Echoes instrumental palette. As with the harmonized ahhs, it still feels like playing at the heart of 60s sound. Short of true replica or worthwhile departure, momentum is retarded by the incessant oohs, contributing to listener fatigue. Despite this, Skyler Black’s tumbling drums with tambourine are exquisite.7.0
9. Lost Girl
The organ’s presence endures into “Lost Girl.” Here, though, the main percussion is a light militaristic snare, accompanied by a rolling bass. The sound is authentic, especially when measured against Phil Spector-produced The Crystals. “Lost Girl” is vulnerable as with “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss),” a Crystals song covered by Beach Day label mates Grizzly Bear. The naïvete of the lyrics match the Crystals too, except here the second person feels like a detached renunciation of the speaker’s past or as with earlier songs on Native Echoes, speech directed toward a stereotype: “You’re a little girl in a mixed up world and you don’t know which way to turn.” The theme of friendship recurs as Drake sings, “all your fair weather friends are just a means to an end.” When the key changes, the song begins to drag. “Don’t you want to be at peace?” Don’t you, don’t you, don’t you?7.2
10. How Do You Sleep at Night?
Native Echoes’ most intimate and befuddling track comes last. Diamond’s mixing is strange as the “Gnarly Waves” waves return, cascading now, competing with a harmonic folk song. A very low acoustic guitar and single floor tom passes Beach Day off as boardwalk buskers. This time, the contrast between Beach Day and a day at the beach occurs through the awkward layering. After accusing a friend of being a compulsive liar (who are these enigmatic friends of Drake’s?), The Sandals licks phase Native Echoes out. An acoustic chord progression gracelessly takes the baton—now it feels as if the buskers have moved to the breakers—and a last set of waves crash.6.9
Written by Lawrence Lenhart
Lawrence Lenhart received his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, where he was the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. He is the recipient of two Foundation Awards, two Taube Awards, and the Laverne Harrell Clark Award in Fiction.



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