Have you ever seen the hills of Los Angeles in early May? How solid they look and yet how effortlessly they climb toward the blue sky. Two minutes in their majesty and you might understand why some people consider California a synonym for “freedom.” Coastal son Matt Popieluch knows. His last band, Foreign Born, played indie rock that sounded widescreen but low-key, like the National relieved of their neuroses, while his recordings with Big Search tap into a history of folk-rock that starts with Harry Nilsson and the Dead and continues up through Popieluch’s longtime friend Cass McCombs: bright, plaintive music, but muted, like a shirt faded from a little too long in the sun. Witness “Role Reversal,” the title track from Big Search’s first full length: how it dips into an afternoon nap of clarinets and wakes up in a twilight of brass, scrounging around for its keys. Forgive it: It came because it seemed important at the time but hung around because it felt a little better than going home.
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