By Mandi Kimes
Los Angeles-based psych rockers Mystic Braves might sound like they stepped off a time machine from the 60s, but they’re having the best time as a 60s-inspired band in the modern age, giving psychedelic rock a rebirth. What started out as a hobby turned into something more. Made up of Julian Ducatenzeiler on guitar and vocals, Tony Malacara on bass and vocals, Shane Stotsenberg on guitar and vocals, Cameron Gartung on drums, and Ignacio Gonzalez on organ and tambourine, Mystic Braves decided not to stray away from what Ducatenzeiler describes as “a blend of influence and sound that is unprecedented in contemporary music,” on their newest release Days of Yesteryear.
“To Myself” begins with a percussive worldly sound, ranging from castanets and tambourine, and a desert-infused sound in the guitar melody. Essentially, the song is a post-heartbreak song; the lyrics deal with the realization that his love interest does not reciprocate the same interest in the singer. The bridge proves interesting with changes in the tempo and feel from a chugging 4/4 to a swinging halftime, and back again.
Moving along, “No Trash” sounds like an early Tame Impala track from the Innerspeaker days, with whirling guitars and drum fills that resonate in the transitions. “Now That You’re Gone” sounds like a follow-up to the first track; but with more intensity in the percussion and driving forces through the melody instruments. However, instead of a lover breaking up with the singer, it seems that the lover passed away, and the singer is left with no words to properly express his loss.
“As You Wonder (Why)” introduces us to the jazz flute with an even jazzier beat on the drums. The flute adds that subtle spice to this concoction that we didn’t realize was missing. The layered harmonies on the chorus add a more deep-rooted intensity. “Five-Minute Dream Girl” is certainly the standout track on this album, with lush harmonies and Ducatenzeiler’s soulful melody and amped-up energy. The tambourine never seems to slow down and the organ elevates to a more prominent factor in the songwriting.
Stepping into mellow territory, “Spanish Rain” seems to be the “Sun’s Coming Up” from Tame Impala’s Lonerism album, where it seems there is one central songwriter and lead in the tune. It’s mellower in the sense of instrumentation and not as experimental in the melody; however, after a complete energetic track previously, this is the breath of fresh air we need. That is, until Gartung pushes into a drum fill that Ringo Starr would usually play on “Get Back”, before launching into a bridge reminiscent of the lushness of Temples’ “Move With the Season.” The track also contains a familiar sense of Love’s “Red Telephone” in melody and chord progression; or trippiness if you’re familiar with this song from the acid trip scene in Taking Woodstock.
“Corazon” begins the lyrics “Listen to your heart // And you will find the beat // To see where you belong // You need to move your feet,” which the gentle push you need to regain focus and reevaluate your true self to move forward from a struggle. It’s interesting that they use an instrumentally Spanish sound with English lyrics and a Spanish title for the word “heart.” The low-end guitar during the instrumental breakdown sound like a saxophone at first before ranging the melody into its higher register, while the keys on this song are replaced with a ragtime-sounding piano instead of organ.
Moving into “Down On Me,” the tune begins with the thickest harmonies I’ve yet to hear on this album, and I’m instantly drawn to the track. The track focuses more on the vocals then on instrumentation, and it’s completely okay with me. The guitars seem to burst out during the instrumental break, as if to say “Here I am!” The song picks up tempo and the harmonies remain true to its tightness and fluid motion. To get a better idea, think “Nowhere Man” type harmonies. Even as they slide to another note, they slide together and hit the notes with precision each time. “Great Company” begins with the jangly guitars a punchy snare that resembles Temples’ “Shelter” from their Sun Structures album. The melody could easily be influenced from that song, as the scaling is more on the Indian-style, with a hint of sitar in the background. This track is definitely that most inspired by Indian culture, as if The Beatles dropped a hint of “Tomorrow Never Knows” into its songwriting. The instrumental lead-out at the end with the sitar and guitar proves to be the beautiful romance on this album.
Days of Yesteryear ends with “Born to Get to You,” which contains similarities to The Growlers in vocal strain. The minor-sounding chord progression with flattened sevenths and sharpened fifths possesses the similar sound to The Beatles’ “Michelle,” while ending the album with the intensity of a bad trip. It’s “Michelle” meets “A Day in the Life” mixed with The Growlers singing.
This album was very enjoyable to listen to from front to back. I recommend this album for fans of early Tame Impala, Temples, The Growlers, and psych-era Beatles. I hope to see Mystic Braves tour soon, so that I might witness this trip of an album live.