Monday 17 February 2014

Sleepy Sun - Maui Tears

Album review by

It might just have been my personal perception of things, but a few years ago several bands came to prominence and signalled something of a revival in experimental Americana and alt-rock sounds. Fleet Foxes are an obvious example (there was a trend for animal names too) who were fairly new, but others such as Grizzy Bear and Animal Collective had the critics foaming at the mouth. These bands had been around for some time, but all seemed to break through at the end of the last decade, presenting a different take on US psych of the 1970s. Another band who did the same were Sleepy Sun. They too weren't new, and in another life were called Mania. They felt like part of the same scene (if you could call it that, most of these bands were and are fairly distinctive) and they also gained some plaudits. For whatever reason, perhaps simply through not giving them enough time, Sleepy Sun didn't capture my imagination in quite the same way, but listening to new album 'Maui Tears' it may be time to revisit the three long-players that preceded it. Is it that they weren't as good? Some songs seemed drawn-out and a bit uneventful. Or was it just that I didn't give them enough time? I guess that's for me to discover in my own time, but the new record is one of the finest of the year so far - and although that's not saying much given the time period, I'll probably be saying the same in several months time.

There's more life here, more passion and energy, and to top it all off, better songs. There's no way this one could pass me by leaving a trail of indifference behind it. It's a case of setting out their stall very early on. 'The Lane' is pretty amazing; the vocals are nearly raw with force and emotion; if you've ever heard 'Long Time Coming' by The Delays then that would be a good reference point. Guitars flail and squall, crafting psychedelic shapes that don't fit in with the other psych bands everyone's going wild for. It's a real powerhouse. With a slower, almost proggy start, 'Words' oozes this very same creative force and emotion. If there was an award for making guitars sound amazing, then these guys would surely be on the short-list. They take the energies of the opener and bring in a little bit of Neil Young's influence to the equation. Once again it's quite spectacular - this feels like a band on top of their game, and probably on top of everyone else's too. There are few groups who can craft such majesty in this way.

They keep coming: 'Everywhere Waltz' is big enough fill the Grand Canon, yet it breaks on occasion to give a mellow, dreamlike dynamic; On 'Outside' they don't just mean getting out of the house, they mean getting out and sailing up to the sky, it's a slow-paced track but is loaded with grandeur and more of those fabulous vocals and guitars (with a hint of Pink Floyd thrown in too); distortion and discord give way to a deeper form of fuzz-rock on the gritty '11:32' which shows the band at their heaviest; 'Thielbar' is a more extended track, acting as something of a centrepiece and changing tempo, style and more on several occasions, as if the band just want to let the songs take them on a journey and knowing that they have the talent for that journey to be a good one, although it's not the best they have to offer; mixing their own modern take on things with the more maudlin side of The Beach Boys gives us the appropriately-titled 'Slowdown' which relaxes the soul and provides some nice harmonies, you almost sense that the album is gently petering out, but then they throw in the scuzzy garage blast of 'Galaxy Punk' which reiterates what the overriding sound of the album is. Finally Sleepy Sun deliver the title-track, a sprawling ten minute exploration into outer space that metamorphoses into an ever growing and evolving finale. When I do revisit those previous albums, I'll be amazed if any of then can match this stunning effort.

Sleepy Sun's website

Pre-order the album

Catch them live:

Feb 17 Low Spirits, Albuquerque, NM
Feb 18 Three Links, Dallas, TX
Feb 19 Fitzgerald's Downstairs, Houston, TX
Feb 20 Limelight, San Antonio, TX
Feb 21 Red 7, Austin, TX Tickets
Feb 22 Spanish Moon, Baton Rouge, LA
Feb 24 The Basement, Atlanta, GA
Feb 25 Bottletree Cafe, Birmingham, AL
Feb 26 The End, Nashville, TN
Feb 27 The One Stop Deli & Bar, Asheville, NC
Feb 28 Rumba Cafe, Columbus, OH
Mar 01 MOTR Pub, Cincinnati, OH
Mar 02 Smiling Moose, Pittsburgh, PA
Mar 03 Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA
Mar 04 Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY
Mar 06 Divan Orange, Montreal, Canada
Mar 07 Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Canada
Mar 08 Shelter, Detroit, MI
Mar 10 Schuba's Tavern, Chicago, IL
Mar 11 Turf Club, St Paul, MN
Mar 12 The Aquarium, Fargo, ND
Mar 13 Union Music Hall, Winnipeg, Canada
Mar 14 O'Hanlons, Regina, Canada
Mar 15 Vangelis, Saskatoon, Canada
Mar 16 Wunderbar, Edmonton, Canada
Mar 18 Broken City, Calgary, Canada
Mar 19 Habitat, Kelowna, Canada
Mar 20 Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, Canada
Mar 21 Garibaldi Lift Company, Whistler, Canada
Mar 22 Lucky Bar, Victoria, Canada
Mar 23 The Shakedown, Bellingham, WA
Mar 24 Sunet Tavern, Seattle, WA
Mar 25 Holocene, Portland, OR
Mar 27 The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
Mar 28 Think Tank Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Apr 12 Rotonde at Botanique, Brussels, Belgium
Apr 13 Paradiso Upstairs, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Apr 14 The Hope, Brighton, United Kingdom
Apr 15 Corsica Studios, London, United Kingdom
Apr 16 Deaf Institute, Manchester, United Kingdom
Apr 17 Broadcast, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Apr 18 Detestival, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Apr 19 Instant Karma Festival, Oostende, Belgium  
Apr 20 Doornroosje, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Apr 20 Paaspop, Schijndel, Netherlands
Apr 22 Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
Apr 23 UT Connewitz, Leipzig, Germany
Apr 24 Desert Fest, Berlin, Germany
Apr 25 Club Manufaktur, Schorndorf, Germany
Apr 26 Queensday Festival, Venlo, Netherlands
Apr 27 Viadukt, Zurich, Switzerland
Apr 28 Le Point Ephémère, Paris, France

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