When The Black Angels released their debut LP in 2006, they were envisioned by some as forerunners of the psychedelic rock revival, and they cemented that status with 2010’s Phosphene Dream, which heightened their popularity among indie and mainstream music listeners. However, in the past four years, in particular the last two, the landscape has changed significantly with the emergence of dozens of bands by the day, and an increasing number of new artists are trying to put their own touches on a genre made famous by such luminaries as The Velvet Underground, The Doors, and The Byrds. With the field becoming more crowded, veteran bands are forced to find specific niches in genres they once ruled – or at least occupied spots near the top.
For The Black Angels, they are one of those veteran bands even though they are only 8 years removed from their first LP. And as new bands enter the neighbourhood, The Black Angels are left with finding that “prime real estate” area that separates them from the rest. 2011’s Another Nice Pair and last year’s Indigo Meadow were the start of that process, where the Austin–based band was not going to rest on its laurels but find new sounds and sonic landscapes.
The evolution of the band continues with their latest effort, the 7-track EP, Clear Lake Forest. The latest effort sees The Black Angels turn to more psych pop sounds, utilizing more resounding hooks and beats. This is notable at the start of the album with “Sunday Evening” and “Tired Eyes”, which are catchy, trippy numbers. On the latter track, vocalist Alex Maas repeatedly states, “What I’m thinking of,” which is a question long-time fans may be asking after first listen.
“Diamond Eyes” is the on track that has the band returning to its past sounds and replicating the music of the ’70s. Meanwhile, “The Flop” is an uptempo number that might have you thinking of a B-horror film or even a ’60s/’70s spy film with its frenetic, chase-like pace. It’s a little zany, but a fun tune. “An Occurrence at 4507 South Third Street“ might sound more like a country-folk tune but one drenched in psychedelic tones, yet it all works.
The final two tracks, “The Executioner” and “Linda’s Gone”, are slower psych numbers. The former follows the path of “An Occurrence” with the folk-psyche vibe, although with more psych infused into the song to give the sense of confusion and fear. The latter tells the story of Linda and her disappearance. It, too, is a folk-blues-inspired tune in its storytelling and slow build, yet finishes with a low-key psych flurry.
Clear Lake Forest has some really great moments, especially at the start of the album and the incorporation of folk elements. It is an expansive EP that sees the The Black Angels stretch itself as it attempts to find a niche in the increasingly populated psych arena. Is Clear Lake Forest a complete album? Not quite, but the direction that the band is heading bolds well for the future, and maybe soon The Black Angels will settle in to that perfect real estate.
Clear Lake Forest can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic. The Black Angels comprise of Stephanie Bailey (drums, percussion), Christian Bland (guitar, drone machine/organ), Kyle Hunt (keys, percussion, bass, guitar), and Alex Maas (vocals).
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