Nostalgia was always central to the Beach Boys. Even in the sixties, their songs about surfing, driving fast cars, and hanging out with pretty girls sounded like tales from a bygone era, a fleeting California dreamland. On That Lucky Old Sun, Brian Wilson’s return to Capitol Records—the Boys’ original label—that fondness for the past remains, but it’s clear Wilson has at long last come to terms with the imperfections of both his home and his own talents. A series of tracks about “the heartbeat in L.A.” punctuated by short spoken-word narratives (written by longtime Wilson pal Van Dyke Parks), the record can easily be divided in two: sunny, hypermelodic tunes like “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl” that border on sounding unnatural for a man of Wilson’s age, and a much more intriguing second half with pared-down arrangements, mostly just Wilson’s now-weary tenor with piano, telling tales of what came after the California dreamin’. “All these voices, all these memories, made me feel like stone,” he sings, voice cracking with anger, on the record’s standout track, “Midnight’s Another Day,” a piano ballad perhaps referencing Wilson’s famed bout with depression. And there’s an almost overpowering wistfulness in Wilson’s admitted favorite on the album, “Southern California.” “I had this dream / singing with my brothers / in harmony, supporting each other,” he sings, first alone, then gradually bolstered by the rising chorus of his much younger backup singers. “The wind chimed, laughter rhymed / We had nothing but time.”
Autumn of the Beach Boy
Brian Wilson explores the other side of the California dream.
That Lucky Old Sun.
- Toni Morrison’s History Lesson
- The Return of John Updike and Philip Roth
- The Semi-Gothic Debut Novelist: Hannah Tinti
- Amitav Ghosh Creates a New Language
- Match the Subject to the Biography
- Is Roberto Bolaño's Final Novel His Greatest?
- Memoirs Tackling Addiction and Mental Illness
- Vulture's Recommend-o-Matic: Books
- Marilynne Robinson Returns to Gilead
- The Season in Books
Classical & Dance
- Counting Down to the Premiere of Doctor Atomic
- Which Venues Are Closed for the Season
- Daniel Barenboim Is Keeping Busy
- Carnegie Hall Honors Leonard Bernstein
- Doug Cuomo Trades SATC for Sanskrit
- Alisa Weilerstein Joins the Family Business
- String Quartet Ethel Turns Music Into Theater
- Chopin Inspires Benjamin Millepied
- The Season in Classical & Dance
- Rachel Weisz Tries Comedy
- What You Should Know About The Road Director John Hillcoat
- Q&A With Josh Brolin on Playing George Bush
- A Guide to The Season's Bro Movies
- Q&A With Catherine Keener on Being Charlie Kaufman's Nightmare Muse
- Benicio Del Toro Won't Make Fun of Your Che T-Shirt
- Why Beverly Hills Chihuahua Is a Stoner Classic
- Vulture's Recommend-o-Matic: Movies
- The Season in Movies
- Oasis and the Verve Refuse to Go Out Quietly
- Will America Go Berserk for Glasvegas?
- Leona Naess Comes Back From the Depths
- Young Jeezy Isn't Cutting Back
- Motörhead Returns With 21st Album
- Brian Wilson Explores the California Dream
- The Jazz Event of the Season: Festival of New Trumpet Music
- Big Bands Make a Comeback
- Deerhunter Turns Down the Noise
- Sigur Rós Dresses Up
- TV on the Radio Comes Through Loud and Clear
- Q&A With Free Blood About "Sex Party Music"
- The Season in Pop
- J.J. Abrams Tries to Play It Straight
- $10 Million for a Pilot?
- Simon Baker Makes Us Watch a Telepathic Quack
- Can Two Commonwealth Comedies Import Funny?
- Where New York–Based Shows Left Off
- 90210 Returns
- Christian Slater Is His Own Worst Enemy
- Vulture's Recommend-o-Matic: TV
- Will Michael Scott Find Love on The Office?
- The Season in TV