Priestbird – Beachcombers

3 out of 5

Label: self-released

Produced by: Stone Gossard

As the legion of sound-alike punk bands that’ve made various splashes over the years can serve as testament to: you don’t necessarily have to be original to be good – commitment, competence, and passion can get you pretty far. But having a few standout tracks helps too, especially when those are set at optimal beginning and midpoints of your album.

Priestbird – transformed from outsider oddballs Tarantula A.D. – have somewhat channeled their art-school energy into a smoothed out, folk- and psych-influenced sound on their second album under their current name, Beachcombers. That album title itself is fairly representative of the vibe it effects: generally pretty laid back and mellow, Beatles-esque melodies, and a gentle strum. But to my ear, there’s also a Texas-indie influence, a la bands of the 6gunlover label, giving some of the more predictable easy-time vibes of the disc an appreciable bit of quirk. And then there are the moments where all of that chill peaks in some really excellently emotive moments: opener Color Loom and mid-album freakout Diamond help to bring our attentions to the band’s skills on all fronts, with strong vocals, instrumental flourish, and deep, propulsive production; this makes the more typical folksy strum of the inbetween tracks feel stronger by association as well – purposeful downbeats between some notable storms.

That said, there’s nothing about Priestbird that necessarily breaks through an overhanging familiarity to the music. I’ve named some references, and I’m sure others will come up for any given listener: musically we’re in “sound-like” territory, and lyrically, things are a bit too vague to ever deliver any strong points or emotions. But the music is delivered passionately, and without much pretense: Beachcombers isn’t dressed up in excessive presentation to suggest that it’s more than what it is – a pleasant collection of songs.