A West Coast beach at sunset or a Massachusetts park surrounded by green trees, these are the ideal places where, with a cold pale ale, Quilt should be watched. But Brighton on a breezy spring night does not deface too much and for one hour the feeling is that of being on the opposite side of the ocean.
The Boston band is back to The Hope and Ruin for its second time, now with the new album Plaza, which fills a good part of the hour-long setlist. New and old tracks melt together in one jingle-jangling stream of 60s-inspired West Coast pop that borders light psychedelia and elevates your mind without acids. Apart from the fuzzy Strawberry Alarm Clock and 5th Dimension’s Byrds-flavoured Hissing My Plea, with its psych-beat teen-band pace, the rest is a clean and polite dreamy bubble of sounds.
Singer and guitarist Anna Fox Rochinski’s voice doesn’t lose the gentleness of the recordings in second album crowd-favourites such as Tie Up The Tides, the dreamy Mary Mountain and Arctic Shark, with its sitar-sounding guitars. The soft vocal harmonies are matched by perfectly-crafted guitar melodies. The rhythmic section gives the full-bodied background for guitar riffs through the bass lines of Keven Lareau and the muffled drums of John Andrews (Woods), who also leaves me amazed, proving to be a gifted singer. Plaza’s beautiful orchestral arrangements, as in the Beatles-esque single Eliot St, sung by guitarist Shane Butler, survive in the impact with the live performance and the keyboards prove to be an interesting addition to the stage performance. Other highlights include the new soft vocal ballads Padova and Something There, without forgetting the garage-paced Tired and Buttered.
The Byrds folk-rock and dreamy pop influences- and some Belle & Sebastian here and there- are evident, but to label Quilt simply as a 60s revival band is reductive. They have an originality and are, together with Woods and Sugar Candy Mountain, one of the best bands re-proposing certain West Coast sounds with an added modern twist. O’Connor’s Barn is a delightful proof.
There are those who always expect some radical changes from one record to the other and there are also those bands which lose all their appeal at the second album. Quilt, as Brian Jonestown Massacre, prove that it is not essential to revolutionise one’s sound to keep being interesting, because often the biggest innovations lie in what’s already there. Quilt are, wonderfully, just themselves, please don’t ask them to change.