You know what they say about the eventual fate of good things, and in this case it's cool skulls on The Apaches album covers. It does not appear that this was their secret ingredient, however as this is my favorite record yet from them.
Skulls aside, this is not a big departure from this Phoenix-based group, and it's been hard to nail down why this particular release feels so good. They've always walked a line between straight surf and spaghetti western (often with an eleki-ish guitar tone), but with a laid-back feel that throttles them from feeling too entrenched in either world. To me this feels like the record that has felt most comfortable with that spot. Laid-back surf is a tough thing to nail without just feeling lifeless (look to Gold Dust Lounge for a recent example of success), but the easy-going "Dreamliner" goes straight for that mood and nails it.
What's especially cool is how they've managed to keep that with the more dance-friendly numbers. "The Red Scare" doesn't shout at you, but those punch of those drums are felt. These are songs that don't feel like they get a dancehall lightly shuffling, but instead feel like they'll get a good chunk of sweaty dancers in a pe bar... and doesn't that actually feel better?
If I were to take another guess at what went right here, it's pitch-perfect production that keeps everything just in the right balance. Guitars have power, but aren't aggressive, they fill space without howling. It's sparse but active.
Or maybe it's just good songs. Each of these have their own merit, and just when you think you've passed one of the standouts, you've got a new contender.
Digital download and CD.