Audio Mixer: Sir Psych.
Recording information: The Psychedelic Shack #5, Los Angeles, California (2016).
Arranger: Sir Psych.
The Smoking Trees' 2014 album, TST, was a near-brilliant psychedelic pop trip that matched vintage sounds with spaced-out vocals and 12 very catchy songs. Concocted in a cotton-candy dream by Sir Psych and L.A. AL, the sessions for the album proved productive enough to spawn another album. Though L.A. AL bailed before it could be completed, Sir Psych polished up songs that didn't make the final cut for TST and The Archer and the Bull was born. Many times when a second album is built from leftovers, it really sounds like it. The songs are weaker, the ideas are flimsy, and it's very clear why the songs didn't make the grade. That's not really the case here at all. The songs on TST may be a little sharper and there are a few moments here that sound a little bit filler-ish, but Sir Psych's talents as a producer, vocalist, and creator are so strong that his castoffs are other people's gold. The lo-fi sound here isn't polished much, but the layers of gently strummed guitars, punchy basslines, echoing keys, and rich vocal harmonies fit together so perfectly, and the sounds he gets are so good, the songs could have been forgettable and it would still be worth a listen or two on a lost summer weekend. They aren't, though -- tracks like the harpsichord-heavy "High Horse," the insistent jangle popper "My Last Catastrophe," and the shimmering Beach-Boys-at-the-bottom-of-a-pool-sounding "Summer Sun" all stick like glue. They and a couple others, especially the dreamlike "Leslie Echo's," could have made it on TST and not brought the quality level down at all. Even the tunes that feel like throwaways have their charms. In the wrong hands "She's Got a Kazoo" could have been silly; in Sir Psych's magic fingers it comes off like a lost Tomorrow song. He truly is a craftsman and if he's not exactly a visionary, he is someone with a clear vision and the wherewithal to make the Smoking Trees' psych-pop dreams a very enjoyable reality. ~ Tim Sendra