Fainting Goats sophomore release Cambria Pines is a succinctly different record than their debut Native Sounds of the Golden West. Though the word “different” seems a bit of a misnomer owing to the fact that Cambria Pines with its ‘60s alt-country bathed in Americana and folk, reminiscent of Grateful Dead but with much more brevity, and at times even skirting the mid-period work of R.E.M., is a far cry from the lo-fi indie rock feel of Native Sounds of the Golden West.
With Cambria Pines, the Santa Cruz four-piece have diversified their sound, taking on tones of wispy alt-rock, harkening back to the golden days of the California country bands born out of the ‘70s. It is a rather seismic shift in sound, though Fainting Goats largely prove they can hold their own.
The path is not without its trials however. The album’s opener “Buttonwillow” is a hokey, sing-song-y alt country flavored tune. Its trite construction tells a story, and manages to rhyme the last line of the verse with “Buttonwillow.” Likewise “Life Can't Hold You” has the same hackneyed feeling to it and contains a late ‘90s mainstream pop rock feel to it.
Cambria Pines does begin to show rather nicely starting with “Fire Can and Tom Tom” which combines the bands pop sensibilities with some ‘70s twang and wah-wah guitar jams. Here Fainting Goats sound awake for the first time on Cambria Pines. That life, though slightly more subdued sounding, continues on the rambling rocker, “Sister Hold Tight to the Line,” which also includes some of the albums most impressive vocal harmonies. This flow of mellow ‘70s inspired folk rock continues on the beautiful “Javelina” which has a nice flair of Allman Brothers inspired guitar.
“Not Afraid to Die” sees the band creating a slow moving and heartfelt lamentation on life, while the rambling bluesy twang of “Cutting Down Our Dreams” picks up the pace once again and leads into the shiny and happy closer “Wink.”
At the very core of Cambria Pines one hears music that is generated from the hearts of musicians who care about the music they’re playing. It can be heard in every drum tap, bass line, guitar pluck and vocal. To listen to their now two albums back to back, one would be hard pressed to believe that these two records are from the same band. And the fact that Fainting Goats were able to make two solid records which both sound so different is a testament to their long practiced craft.
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