Every now and then a band you used to love slides off your radar, and Gomez were the latest band to join this category of my record collection. The last three albums had plenty of tunes, but suffered from over-production and the loss of the organic sound that defined the band's sound on the debut and follow-up albums.
I stumbled across "A New Tide" several months after it was released and discovered that out of the blue, the band have put together the record that they threatened a decade ago. I began this review thinking I would call it their best work "since Liquid Skin", but it may be fair to say that, for me, this is their most striking album to date.
The silliness of recent records has been discarded, and they have stopped trying to pen pop songs, focusing instead on a beautiful album which flows in a way that none of their records have for a long time. One of the comments on this page says that the album has "no killer tunes" - this is spot on. But this is a good thing. This is not a collection of singles with some filler to make up an album's worth, it's a majestic work of art.
Only perhaps the track "Win Park Slope" doesn't seem to fit in with the album's sound.
It's not to say that there aren't stand-out tracks - the uplifting "Airstream Driver" captures the fun side of Gomez, but whereas the more electric tracks from recent albums were smothered in Protools effects, this track bounces along with a scuzzy and beautifully unpolished guitar refrain.
Arguably every Gomez album to date has had a tendency to peter out towards the end. Maybe this was a result of them taking on production duties themselves, but on "A New Tide", the sequencing places three of the most pleasing tracks right at the end, leaving a warm glow once play stops. "Very Strange" plods on unremarkably until a marimba section breaks up the track, and it's followed by the gentle strumming of "Other Plans", a track evoking the tender sounds of Belle and Sebastian and Yo La Tengo.
The stunning "Sunset Gate" closes the record memorably. A thudding but muted drum powers on behind the relaxed vocals, which are interrupted by a low and initially jarring section of woodwind. It's a hypnotic track which defines the natural and mature sound that Gomez have found here.
I have no qualms about dishing out five stars to "A New Tide". It may have seemed that Gomez had peaked early in their careers, but if the album title rings true then perhaps this marks the beginning of a bright new chapter in Gomez's career. This is a band that are well and truly back on my radar.