Saturday, September 14, 2013
CD review: Here comes the Sun City with their self-titled debut album
Fort Worth's new indie band Sun City delivers the goods in their first album.
You hardly ever see the phrases brand new local band and polished studio album in the same sentence, and for good reason: Most bands just starting out have just enough funds to make an album that sounds like it was recorded on an answering machine during a tornado while two cats were mating in the next room. But Fort Worth's brand new indie pop band Sun City has accomplished an impressive feat, releasing a debut album that sounds professionally produced while also capturing the band's distinct sound.
Formed in 2011 when lead singer Chad Johnson responded to an ad on Craigslist, Sun City has a dreamy, easy-going sound that might remind listeners of Wilco or Fleet Foxes with a heavy dose of '60s-era pop. The band -- including Brian Whaley on bass and Kevin Geist on drums -- played two shows earlier this year to gauge fan reaction before a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed the band to record their debut album at Dallas' Valve Studios. There, Casey Di iorio -- the same guy who recorded a few Polyphonic Spree and Bowling for Soup albums, as well as the insanely catchy theme song to Phineas and Ferb -- engineered the album's vintage, old school analog feel. From the very first note of the very first song, the quality of the vintage recording will impress: The twang of every pulled guitar string and the trill of every emotional high note in the vocals are warm, organic and crystal-clear.
The album has eight songs that work well as a whole, providing an easy-to-listen-to chill out album that is far more Tom Petty than Kenny G. The record kicks off with "Theory of Relativity," a catchy, hooky pop song that's given a distinct late '60s sound with the addition of the tambourine and moog in the background. Johnson's vocals are tight and follow the instruments well, providing a little gift to the ladies when he hits those higher registers.
Following "Theory" is "Not That Bad," an easy-paced indie pop song punctuated by a country/folk twang. The band seems to be having fun on the refrains, which are lifted by the rare and elusive moog to get that organic '60s vibe. The third song on the album is "British," in which the band reluctantly apologizes for not being British by making the most British-sounding song on the record. The song is very reminiscent of the Beatles, particularly when the band sneaks in some Sgt. Pepper's-esque horn sections, while the vocals are more like a North Texan Cibo Matto. The moog-enchanced ending, while not particularly British, does vaguely sound like old-school 1980s video game credit music, possibly as a reminder to any uppity Brits that American culture still reigns supreme.
The remaining songs on the album are all excellent examples of combining '60s-flavored pop sounds with more modern indie music. "None of This is Happening" is Beatles with a twang; "The New World" is higher-energy rock complete with power chords and lively vocals; and the aptly-named "Daydream" ends the album on a sweet, breezy note. The other two tracks, "People in the Seventies" and "Freedom of Youth" are straight-up retro: While "Seventies" uses a trippy Tame Impala-esque echo chamber effect as Johnson plays around with various '70s tropes, "Freedom" achieves a hypnotic, sleepy effect with an old-school organ/Leslie combo to work with Johnson's melancholic vocals pining for the youth we'll never get back.
Sun City is definitely a new band worth checking out. You can find out more about them here.