Orange County's Magnolia Collective has taken time in pursuing the trappings of proper band life.
When the group issued a lone EP, Ghost Stories, it was a loose seven-piece, having come to the aid of leader Daniel Snyder when his previous band faded after a few frustrating years. But now, with the belated arrival of the full-length An Old Darkness Falls, Magnolia Collective is a tight, efficient quartet, with married couple Mimi and Rich McLaughlin on bass and guitar, respectively, and Jonathan Truesdale on drums.
An Old Darkness Falls showcases Magnolia Collective's essential strengths—Snyder's full croon, Rich's dynamic guitar, Mimi's solid bass and Truesdale's powerful drumming, which hits hard but never distracts from Snyder's songs. The result is capable of top-shelf country-rock.
"Gran Torino" rambles along above a propulsive backbeat, mirroring Snyder's insistence as he pulls up to his beloved's house "in a Gran Torino/that I borrowed from my dad/A bouquet of plastic flowers from the truck store/on the way into town." Such details elevate his songs, filling out familiar themes with distinction. McLaughlin's intricate guitar work distinguishes the Collective, too. His runs streak like falling stars during "The Doldrums." These hopeful bursts are a fitting foil for the downtrodden Snyder, as he moans "I thin my blood with alcohol." Similarly sharp lines stoke the desperate "Guadalajara Girl," adding a welcome twist to a tune that cribs the vibe of "Hotel California."
None of this is mind-altering stuff, but that's never been the point: Magnolia Collective took time to take shape and arrive, at last, with a fetching, full set of songs.