I think that our right honorable and official AMG music critic Tim Sendra might need a bit of a latitude adjustment on this one because I feel he’s gotten this breathtakingly grooving and relaxing mellifluous classic of an album all wrong!
Perhaps it is because I experienced Complete Strangers in the hot afternoon mellow gold of my balcony overlooking the tropical island splendor of the Dominican Republic — but I love this recording! It seems a perfectly natural progression as Complete Strangers has worked past some of the slightly more neurotic moments of The Errant Charm for an altogether smoother listen.
Acoustic guitars strum whimsically breezy jazz chords evoking achingly beautiful faraway places with rhythms reminiscent of America’s most exceptional work (“Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man,” “Riverside…”). There are hints of Latin percussion, electric guitars waft, chiming arpeggios wavering like shimmering seas, and windswept steel guitars add an exotic seabird ambiance to the proceedings.
Far from being emotionless, Andy Cabic’s somewhere between Paul Simon and Gerry Beckley (America) vocals ideally suit the warm, laid-back lilt of the songs and recall the warm, hazy vocals of the great ’70s singer-songwriters and folk-rock bands.
Indeed, Cabic’s approach may be “drowsy,” but it’s the kind of drowsy that makes for a comfortable, pleasant listen: Adele it ain’t! Contrary to what many critics mistakenly believe — music doesn’t need to shout, scream, rage or offend to keep one engaged or to have worth.
Real music lovers have more depth and range than that, and Complete Strangers will reward listeners who are willing to give it half a chance.
Too much music these days is filled with empty plastic blips, bleeps, beeps, and spuriously over-emotional pseudo-soulful vocals.
Despite the artful use of electropop flourishes, this album has an intensely organic feel with intricately subtle grooves and alluring winsome melodies that draw the listener along on a dreamy wave of electro-folk tropical psychedelia.
In perfect harmony with the geography of the band’s home state, it’s the ideal accompaniment for any mountain or desert campfire cookout, BBQ or hanging out on a deck, balcony, poolside or beachside cocktail session.
Complete Strangers is a beautiful, memorable masterpiece of California magic by a quintessentially Californian band — one of very the best out there!