To the extent that contemporary psyche rockers the Olivia Tremor Control defeated the sonic constraints of multi-tracking in an Athens, Georgia bedroom studio, veteran indie songwriter Brad Laner develops huge-sounding, hippified pop within the confines of his West Coast abode. Natural Selections follows 2010’s Mislead Into a Field By a Deformed Deer, which was an acid-soaked endeavor that Laner cut with Alex Graham as the Internal Tulips. It’s worth mentioning because of the shared indulgence in backward-looking experimentalism between the two records. Laner’s healthy advocacy for shapeshifting records like The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was frequently apparent on Mislead, not to mention the Beatles influences, but Natural Selections is a far roomier, more organic work. It’s less fragmented. A structured pop sound trumps the electronic manipulation and vocal treatment.
Occasionally humorous, tossed-off lyrics aside (“People buy drugs in Lancaster”), Laner kills on these broad-reaching nuggets. He has narrowed his focus considerably since his 2007 solo debut, the somewhat less realized Neighbor Singing. “Why Did I Do It” sounds as if Laner recorded it deep in a well; honey-dipped vocal harmonies lacquer the thumping, hollow drums and crisp cymbals topping a lush base of organs and acoustic guitar. It might just as well have landed on a Buffalo Springfield album. Meanwhile, “Crawl Back In” was plotted with loops, eerie field noise, and backward-trickling pick-slides stirred into the brew. The traditionally tracked guitars are fierce and impressive, too, as the cascading leads that Laner laid down as a shoegaze pioneer in Medicine really don’t seem that far behind him here.