While music groups have tried to emulate the sounds of the past in various ways, this is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the world of psychedelic music. Though one could probably make an argument that this large sections of this genre aspire to exist in a time span from about 1965 to ‘69 or so, it’s interesting to imagine what would happen if you dug a hole in your backyard, discovered a psychedelic rock album, and were trying to determine the time period from which it came. I suspect that, although most contemporary releases would sound like they could have come from the late ‘60s, there’d be some sort of giveaway in terms of tones, production, or songwriting that would give them away as having been produced later.
In the case of Hello Darling, a 2019 release from Pomona, California’s The Violet Mindfield, making that kind of determination might be sustantially more difficult. From the instrumentation to the tonal qualities to the sound design, this album sounds like it may as well have been made around the same time as, say, The Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction. Moreover, listening to Hello Darling almost makes me think this four-piece group went down a checklist of standard song types of yesteryear and made sure to cover all the bases: it seems like a virtual tour of various vintage rock music styles.
The album starts off with the vaguely mysterious “I Saw Your Face,” a track that imbues a sense of anguish through its aching guitar lines and expressive vocals. Though perhaps not the track one would expect as an opener, it’s works fantastically well in context, because second track “Downtown (I Wanna Roll With You)” really digs in the hooks and delivers precisely what one would think of as an ideal garage rock single. With a bouncy bass line, fuzzed-out guitar, crunchy but minimalist rhythm elements, and a combination of reverb-heavy main vocals with gloriously harmonic backup parts, it’s a rather simple yet extremely catchy and memorable track.
Follow-up “How Many Flowers” continues in much the same vein, and from here, Hello Darling delivers a little bit of everything, from the somber ballad “Red Feather” which finds singer/songwriter John Duran telling the sad story of a Native American woman who can’t seem to find her place in the world, to the ethnic, almost loungey vibe of “Jealous Again,” a track which satisfies the sitar requirement for the album, to the weird sound experimentation found intermittently during “A Reputable Fool Hearted Enterprise.”
Following the hazy and dreamy “Spirit Dancer,” “No Money No Honey” transitions between bright folky sections and ones that recall, for me anyway, the likes of “Tequila” or “Green Onions,” and “In the Land of Ten Thousand Saguaros” plays as a mix of warm guitar-driven folk, drum circle percussion, and echoing flute. “Crocodile Tears” stands as another winning garage rock number, and the final two tracks work nicely as one continuous piece: the first being more peppy, the second a warm and relaxed sendoff to a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive release.
Production throughout Hello Darling might sound rather sparse and not particularly flashy by modern standards, but I think that’s exactly what makes it such a good replication of vintage psych rock. It’s really the music and songwriting that’s the star here, and, though there’s quite a bit of variety in terms of the feel and mood of these tracks, I really liked how this album flows as it goes along. There’s a nice mix of more upbeat numbers and more expressive ones, and the album ends on a high note.
Hello Darling is the eighth Bandcamp release by The Violet Mindfield since 2014. This album truly shows a band who’s perfected their sound and is producing great material, but I was somewhat bummed that I hadn’t heard of them earlier. I guess that’s not shocking considering the overwhelming amount of music available on the internet, and it points to the fact that, though there’s undoubtedly a lot of outstanding stuff out there, finding it is sometimes (always?) a challenge. My recommendation is, if you’re into garage rock or the many varieties of psychedelic music, check this band out when you get a chance.
8.0 / 10
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