2013 was a lost year for me, but one of the lone bright spots was finding about Burning Palms. Hailing from Arizona, these guys blew me away with their polished and unique take on psychedelic surf rock, making me wish I'd refrain, if just for a second, from being anti-drug so I could consume some peyote and get lost in the desert haze with their music. So when I heard (Or rather, came across) the information that they recently released another album, I nearly tripped over myself in nerd like anticipation in order to listen to it. But what would I find? Would it further my opinion that these guys are one of my new favorite acts out there? Or would I find a pile of rubble, a ruined testament to what use to stand a once glorious group of musicians?
Right out of the gate they emerge with a victory in the form of their opening track, "Young Hunter", which struck me as the theme song to some long lost drifter coasting along Route 66, his beat up convertible plugging along despite the desert heat. It has that twangy, but not overly reverb-laced guitar part that you've come to expect with the genre, and plugs alongside the drums that never are too invasive to take away from the melody. Following this gem is "Hologram", which emerged as my favorite of the whole album. I have a fondness for songs that are overly aggressive or out of place for a band that usually tries to be slightly more subdued in their sound, so I may be a little biased here. But "Hologram" is simple, and that simplicity is what makes it work, plugging away with a repetitive power chord infused guitar part that melds with the relatively quick-paced drums. "Pyramids" also brings the tempo up a notch, but it never manages to grasp the catchiness of "Hologram" though it's a solid track in its own right. They're a breath of fresh air on the album, and I mean that is the best way possible. It's nice to deviate from the norm every now and again, especially with music.
"Thorns" and "Deadbeat Island" bring back the psychedelia, toning things down a bit but upping the atmosphere. "Deadbeat Island" plays things a little more subtly, but at a full minute longer than "Thorns" has more to do with it. The vocals really shine on this track, taking more command than they do on any of the other tracks, making it stand out for that reason alone. "Thorns" is ridiculously catchy, but it's short, and before you know it, is over. Once again, that idea of 'simpler is better' comes back into full swing with the instrumentals on this track, never indulging themselves into musical masturbation. Seriously, if people could only take a que from what Burning Palms does with their melodies, we might all be a little better off.
"Church Of Ra" (Which is also the name of their last album) gets a little absurd from time to time, but builds up an energy and effective cool that keeps it briskly afloat. It has an early Stone Roses vibe to it, though that hallucination may be caused by the summer heat. "Thedious" also makes a name for itself on this album, combining the best of their easy-going and aggressive tropes to create a beautiful, but dangerous musical beast. The chorus on this song really shines, somehow eclipsing everything else and making them submit to its power. "Ajo" and "Dark Matter" round out the rest of the album, never really fitting in with the rest of the tracks though not really languishing with them either. They just don't feel as put-together as the others, and add a filler role to an otherwise spectacular piece of work. If there's a silver lining here, it's that even when Burning Palms produce a filler track, it's still better than 90% of the music other musicians considers their best work.
Burning Palms is on-par with their last album, Church Of Ra, so it's easy to say this may be on my top ten list come the end of the year. It's hard to go into something with high expectations, because you don't want the band you've grown to love to let you down with your pathetic lofty needs. Thankfully, Burning Palms delivered what I would label as a 'must have' for your summer soundtrack, or any season soundtrack really. Just don't forget the peyote.