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19 November 2013

Album Review: Boardwalk || Self-titled LP. Reviewed by Ellie Sleeper.

Album Review:
Boardwalk || Boardwalk
Stones Throw Records
Reviewed by Ellie Sleeper

Los Angeles’ quirky noir-pop songsmiths Boardwalk are cut from a very familiar cloth, but fortunately it’s also a very cozy and comfortable one. Within the space of a few notes at the start of their debut, it’s quite easy to place their potential influences and contemporaries. Again though, this is not a bad thing in the slightest. While there’s no denying their similarities to others, there is something to be said for coming from an impeccably strong heritage, and it should be noted that the Californians are quite good at making the preexisting framework their own.

One could posit influences such as Mazzy Star or Spector-curated girl groups, but the results are not as distant or aloof as other recent takes on such fare. Electronic, hip-hop tinged drums help things not be too earthy and add a bit of a personal touch. Electric organ is quaint and charming, instead of being as ominous or as dark as forebears have made it. Instead of funereal dirges or psychedelic paranoia, listeners are treated to songs and sounds that evoke beachfront fires and quiet tides. The trio makes contemplative music, but does so in a somewhat wistful and hopeful way that avoids being overly cheery or unbelievable.  It might be most accurate to describe what multi-instrumentalist Mike Edge, vocalist Amber Quintero, and guitarist Mark Noseworthy are doing as sounding something like Best Coast on a heavy diet of alcohol and slow-burning cigarettes; it’s light and happy at most turns, but also quite lethargic and sometimes detached. 

Their wealth of charm and personality must be applauded and could be what grows to be a defining factor for them. In an age where many reverb-centric musicians choose to sound bored and overly-hazy, it’s readily obvious that Edge, Quintero, and Noseworthy are having fun, even if they do so quietly. Their restraint never smothers their flair, wit, or style. The cleverness and good sense the three exhibit should also be lauded. Calling it effortlessly cool and smooth would almost be an insult; to do so would be to overlook the thoughtfulness and shrewd writing that one can tell went into crafting and honing the songs.

Highlights include smoldering tremolo picking at the end of “Keep the Wolf”, the confident shuffle of “It’s Over”, and the peaceful and somnolent drones of “Somethings.” “Somethings” is actually the most unlike any of the other songs on the album, almost entirely eschewing previously present drum samples and hushed surf guitars for an almost orchestral meander behind cavernous harmonized vocals. It plays like a soundtrack to films of yesteryear.

On that note, Boardwalk’s self-titled debut is quite cinematic in its scope and tone, and is an incredibly warm affair. It’s perfectly timed for autumn and the cozier moods and listening experiences that listeners may be finding themselves in soon. For those who find themselves in a content sort of contemplation or in very good company, California has sent them a very fitting musical backdrop for such times. Light some candles, brew some tea, get comfortable, and get to know Boardwalk.

Buy It Because: Boardwalk’s debut could not be better timed for the season to come. It speaks of a certain contentment and ease, and every song is endlessly inviting.

Standouts: “Keep the Wolf”, “It’s Over”, and “Somethings”

Goes Great With:
Speck Mountain
Mazzy Star
Still Corners
Cat’s Eyes
Beach House
Boardwalk’s debut is available on iTunes,,, and Amazon.

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