Los Angeles is home to many pop-oriented artists, both old (the Plimsouls, 20/20) and new (Sugarplastic, the Negro Problem). The best of the current lot, however, may be the Wondermints. With a sound that’s firmly rooted in mid-to-late-’60s California pop (there’s an endorsement from Brian Wilson in the debut album’s booklet) with faint echoes of everything from Elvis Costello to bachelor pad music, Darian Sahanaja (vocals/keyboards) and Nick Walusko (vocals/guitar) — since augmented by several bandmates — manage to evoke summery good vibrations without ever sounding beholden to the ’60s.
With rich, full sound that belies the fact that it was recorded on only four tracks, the twelve-song Wondermints was collected from cassettes the band had circulated; even though the LP is cobbled together, it still manages to flow nicely from beginning to end. Some of the treasures it contains are the dainty power-pop of “Proto-Pretty,” Walusko’s gently lilting ballad “She Opens Heaven’s Door,” the Middle Eastern-influenced “Shine” and the muscular, modern “Carnival of Souls.” The album’s crown jewel, though, is Sahanaja’s stunningly beautiful “Tracy Hide,” a tune that perfectly re-creates Smile-era Beach Boys, from the deliciously flowing melody to the yearning lead vocal. And following in the grand tradition of the Holy Modal Rounders’ “Boobs a Lot” and Loudon Wainwright’s ode to his young (and, as it would turn out, gay) son, “Rufus Is a Tit Man,” Sahanaja also contributes the gentle, dreamy “Playtex Aviary.”
Wonderful World of Wondermints is an all-covers collection created at the behest of the band’s Japanese label.
In the late ’90s, Wondermints became Brian Wilson’s touring band, performing spot-on reproductions of Beach Boys classics with him.