Age before beauty 

Beauty eases the passage of a bitter pill, and no medicine stings like time's slow advance. Beulah's new disc, "Yoko" (a reference to the album track "You're Only King Once," not the Beatle wife), offers a bird's-eye view of this somber spectacle, with rich strings abetting gossamer strands of sweeping guitar in a style that combines the voluptuousness of "Pet Sounds" with the winning tunefulness of a band like The Zombies.

"It's about getting older," says singer/guitarist Miles Kurosky of the new album. "I think a lot of people who turned 30 can relate because it talks about the middle ground, the purgatory of not knowing where you're going, and all those things that were supposed to add up to something pretty profound that didn't add up to shit."

Beulah's last record, "The Coast is Never Clear," brimmed with sunny sounds: horns heralding a new sunrise abreast soaring strings and harmonies in thick, sonorous textures. For their latest, that breathless rush is toned down into something more reflective, employing their full-bodied instrumentation with more subtle colorings that accent the melodies rather than carry them.

The album's centerpiece is "Me and Jesus Don't Talk Anymore," in which a twangy pedal steel counterpoints a dark lounge-piano line, before the song closes with a horn solo that transforms it into a New Orleans barrelhouse roll. Such supple musical maneuvers are the band's specialty, finessing the bittersweet lyrical sentiments of a distant father in failing health or the age-spawned gap between one's dreams and reality. "You're hoping for something more than another kiss good night," Kurosky sings on "You're Only King Once." "Your face is full and paved with lines, your hair is receding and so is your mind."

Time's no friend when you're bailing for your life, but if your end's inevitable, at least there's musical company for the ride.


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