PopMatters Music Reviews Editor
Paging John Hughes to the O.C.
If The O.C. has become the John Hughes film of the 2000s, then it should only be a small matter of time before the savvy Alexandra Patsavas and crew (whose musical exploits have been well-documented by others here at PopMatters) stumble on a quiet little album called Tally of the Yes Men and realize that they’ve got a musical gem in their own back yard, ready to be tracked under the next episode’s poignant emotional climax. From there, the exposure will prove that the same album provides the goods to appeal to both the college radio crowd and the adult contemporary set. And then, voila, instant super-hits and stardom.
Or at least, in a perfect world.
Los Angeles’s Goldspot is, in some respects, simply another in a long line of indie pop bands mining a familiar groove. But a careful listen to the group’s debut album reveals a band that has managed to find a sweet spot between indie aesthetics, soundtrack standouts, and commercial radio accessibility. The songs on this unassuming pop album are low-key but shimmering, carefully produced but warmly organic, and just melancholy enough to be sympathetic without being melodramatically emotional or mopey.
Primarily the outlet for bandleader Siddhartha “Sid” Khosla—raised in a Bollywood-music-loving Indian household in New Jersey, developing his musical ambitions in a stint in London, and returning to the States to live in Los Angeles seven years ago—and Egyptian-born drummer Ramy Antoun, the band brings a wealth of melodic influences to the table, including the vocal melodies of Bollywood, the guitar-pop austerity of the UK, and the crisp, open tones of the West Coast. Coalescing as a band over the last few years, the pair have spent time building up the songs after Sid landed a contract with ex-Maverick Records head Russ Rieger’s new Union Records. That deal offered Goldspot a chance to mature, and Tally of the Yes Men is a disc that’s over a year in the making as Goldspot continued to refine its approach. It seems to have paid off, because LA is taking real notice thanks to a month-long residency at the Hotel Café, local radio interviews, podcasts, and more.
Musically, the John Hughes reference is exceedingly appropriate. As is the current fashion, Goldspot mirrors the melodies and instrumentation of the ‘80s post-punk, new wave, downbeat pop scene with a graceful ease. But this isn’t the so-called dance-punk of Interpol or Franz Ferdinand. After all, this is music from a man who claims his first introduction to music with Western singing was turning a switch on his parent’s all-Indian-music-playing radio to hear R.E.M.‘s Green period. Instead, Goldspot plays with a pristine combination of brightness and unadorned charm that would easily slip into the track listing of the Pretty in Pink or Some Kind of Wonderful soundtracks. Of the press the band has received so far, the Cure is the most common reference made, but that misses on a great deal of the subtle variety in Goldspot’s sound. Also present are inflections of Ian McCullough’s solo period, hints of the Psychedelic Furs sans sax, and traces of Aztec Camera. You might as well toss in a Smiths reference just for good measure.
At the same time, you find plenty of the British pop tradition of the last five years rearing its head, with nods to Coldplay and the Starsailor/Keane/Snow Patrol set. Finally, roll all that up and put a gloss on it that somehow sounds like a captured piece of Los Angeles (really, it just sounds like Southern California), and the result is something that seems to play both sides of the fence, resting casually between playing to the college set and having the mass market appeal of the soccer mom radio stations. In a sense, it feels like Goldspot is a band out of time, or perhaps even more accurately, that they’ve tapped into a timeless vein of subtle pop.
It’s the blend of tones and styles into a sort of pop skeleton key that makes Goldspot worth paying attention to. Played right—slowly, with a key appearance here, a soundtrack single there, and the aforementioned O.C. moment broadcasting them everywhere—Goldspot has the potential to bridge both the adult contemporary radio world and the trend-watching indie scene without having to “sell out” or change their current formula. Plus, Ramy has cool hair.
But potential for success isn’t the measure of quality. The real reason to lend Goldspot your ears is because they make good, pleasant, even poignant music that’s both familiar and compelling. Wealth and fame aside, that’s really all that matters.