The Tarnished Gold, by Beachwood Sparks

Whoa...a new Beachwood Sparks album in 2012? Where in the world did this come from? Perhaps it’s from a universe in which every band owes a substantial debt to the Eagles, the Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons, and, most notably, the Byrds. Or perhaps some old buds got back together and decided the initial run in the early 2000s never reached its proper conclusion.

The Tarnished Gold is the least experimental album the band has released. There seems to be a deliberate effort on this disc to morph into the classic bands the Sparks once emulated. The sound is more polished, the performances more precise, the tempos a little slower; it lacks the energetic spark that their debut captured. The soft-rock production works well with a majority of the material, but the songs that step on the gas (“Sparks Fly Again,” “Earl Green,” “The Orange Grass Special”) lack bite.

The Tarnished Gold sounds more like a final album than the beginning of something new. The lyric “Funny how when you find what you were looking for/ it was already there,” from the album’s title track particularly stands out in this regard. As does the album’s closing track, the tellingly titled “Goodbye.”

Album: Tarnished Gold

Artist: Beachwood Sparks

Label: Sub-Pop

Songs: (1) Forget the Song (2) Sparks Fly Again (3) Mollusk (4) Tarnished Gold (5) Water from the Well (6) Talk About Lonesome (7) Leave That Light On (8) Nature's Light (9) No Queremo's Oro (10) Earl Jean (11) Alone Together (12) The Orange Grass Special (13) Goodbye

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