SOMETIME AROUND 1965 or 1966, there was an idyllic slice of American garage-band history typified by kids who'd just discovered hallucinogens but still had short hair. If that era ever existed, David Beckey is trying to recreate its sound. And if it didn't, he's doing a great job of inventing one. His perfectly named Autumn Leaves enforce a strict attention to detail and a stylish disdain for modern guitar effects--although tasteful analog reverb and feedback are fair game. The result is a band that's a near-perfect reflection of a past that never quite happened, with portions of early-'80s California psychedelia (Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate) thrown in for good measure.
The Leaves' gorgeous time-machine approach to pop also explains how singer Beckey can get away with such song topics as "magic flowers" and "everlasting sun castles"--hey, you gotta feel it to understand. Besides, curmudgeonly bassist Keith Patterson (ex-Spectors) is always on hand to harden the edge if need be. For that matter, Beckey isn't averse to a little edgy darkness, either; "Phantom Girl Blues" sends the record on a Halloween-ish detour. Yet, "You Didn't Say a Word" and "Start to Fall" are perfect pop; "Why Must You Feel So Sad?" is a gorgeous Pet Sounds-like chamber ballad; and the sunrise-soaked "When I Close My Eyes" leaps back to early-'70s art-rock acoustics. This band isn't living in the past; they just never found much reason to abandon old ways.
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