Whenever I write, there’s almost always music playing. Obviously, that’s not the most novel approach to writing, but whatever. One trip to YouTube in service of searching for “writing music” will point you in the direction of two and a half hour long odysseys of stock piano music. It’s the same with Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and (presumably) Tidal. They’re mostly repetitive and actually lead down some dark wormholes of fake artists and playlist ethics (google) and what not. But I digress….
Call it an auditory blinder, a creative crutch, or whatever you please, but there’s something to finding the perfect music to not only write to, but meditate, concentrate, and pontificate to. Basically, music you can turn on at any point and drift out into a sea of subconsciousness, only to be reeled back in every once and awhile when the crest and trough of simultaneous open mindedness and focus unify. Those are beautiful moments, and such beautiful moments abound on Nick Byrd’s Muscle Beach II.
For as serene and untroubled a collection of songs it is, the title Muscle Beach II connotes an antithetical image to what takes place throughout the record. Perhaps that’s on purpose. We can only hope, as a winking aside never fails to amuse. But maybe the actual Muscle Beach has some sort of distinctive hold on Byrd’s experience, but who can be certain? Venice Beach is an incomprehensible place at times, so it wouldn’t be out of the question. In the end, it is what it is, and the conjecture only leads to further synchronicity with the music.
But location based speculation is not the matter of hand, Muscle Beach II is. Where a generalized comparison might equate the ebb and flow nature of the record to a roller coaster, Muscle Beach II is far more gentle than a theme park thrill ride. It is a gondola ride down the canals and aqueducts of Byrd’s psyche, but without oversaturating itself with the neuroses that occasionally crops in up in such apparently offertory works.
Without falling too deep into the trap of hyper-comparative writing that befalls so many writers, it should be noted how many different channels of music Byrd manages to pay homage to throughout Muscle Beach II. There are moments that recall “Lonely Lonely” era Feist (arguably the best era), in which minimal production with slight undertones of far off despondence that has all but healed, reminded only by vague imagery and tones.
In other moments, Muscle Beach II recalls melancholic scenes of Bibio if Stephen Wilkinson chose to dive head first into the early Aughts era of post-punk indie rock a la Alexisonfire meets Andy Hull. Furthermore, there are full blown flecks of Dilla donuts style tempos and stunted lyrical gut punches.
These are those beautiful moments we alluded to earlier, and they’re bound to proliferate with each subsequent listen, no matter what capacity you choose to do so.