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Sleepy Sun – Fever

Released on ATP, 6/1/10

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

As much as I try to reject using location as a classifier for sound and as much as I yearn to be earnest when it comes to listening with an open mind and angling for a fresh perspective, I’ve been tainted by a vision.

The dune and dips of Highway 1, the majestic melancholy of the redwoods, the crests of the surf, the electric and polluted sunsets, the rolling yellow hills that collide with blue blue sky — Sleepy Sun has managed to embody all that is this sacred state without an ounce of irony or a hint of affect.

Not necessarily original, but certainly improved and undoubtedly impressive in their mastery of the mighty sound meld, Sleepy Sun’s latest release Fever is the sonic river flowing north to south along this Pacific coast that drains into the sea only to return again and again.

I was immediately struck by the vocals. Bret Constantino and Rachel Williams sing together almost throughout the entirety of the album, their voices the perfect complement to one another and the ideal counter-balance to the unruliness of the guitars and the constant push and pull of each composition.

Not even ninety seconds into the opening track “Marina”, I was taken by the consistency of sound that has been captured by such an assertive arrangement. I immediately began to draw comparisons to Brightblack Morning Light, but where Brightblack loses me in their lackadaisical meanderings, Sleepy Sun breaks you again and again, throwing in curveball breaks and bawdy rhythmical switch-ups.

Don’t get too comfortable in that groove, friend. “Wild Machines” sounds like Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket had a threesome with Dead Meadow, and no one came out alive. And much of the album continues as such. Bits and pieces stand out, reminiscent of other sounds and earlier times, but Sleepy Sun manage to keep their sound alive and their attack confident by not relying on anything but their own ardent initiative to carry them to the next note.

Fever is the new California sound: gorgeous, fierce, soulful, and free. Best to come along for the ride kiddies.