All music is shaped by the environment in which it's created, but there are a few American locales that have branded an instantly identifiable sound: Detroit and its industrial grind, New York's art-school experimentalism, Chicago's urban blues. But no place has woven its history, people, and culture into such a singular vision as California.
Plenty of artists from across the Atlantic have tried to evoke this West Coast idyll -- usually with abysmal results -- but Ireland's Thrills may have plotted the best course through the Golden State since the Pacific Coast Highway. Their debut, So Much for the City, plays like a guidebook to escapist getaways, tracing a route from the northern seaside -- "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)" -- through the central coast ("Big Sur") and on into Tinseltown ("Hollywood Kids"). San Diego ("Deckchairs and Cigarettes") and a side trip to Sin City ("When You're in Love in Las Vegas") are also on the itinerary. Even the bargain-bin album cover depicts the band lounging on a location movie set.
So how does a quintet of school friends from cold and rainy Dublin produce such a convincing testimonial to sand and sun? Fieldwork. The band wrote these songs during a monthlong stay in a San Diego beach house while immersing themselves in a mail-order collection of classic albums. The result isn't a regurgitation of influences, but an expert assimilation of Neil Young's rural folk-rock and the Beach Boys' sunkissed harmonies into an album as warm and balanced as SoCal's climate. Sure, there's little substance beneath the balmy veneer -- just some oblique references to heartbreak and loss -- but City isn't concerned with such intellectual demands as lyrics. All the Thrills ask is that you buy into the Golden State myth, proving once again that California is a state of mind.
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