Sleepy Sun

The band of brothers known far and wide as Sleepy Sun don’t sit still for long. Though they remain real and spiritual citizens of the Northern California hive that birthed the band in the latter half of the last decade, Sleepy Sun is a rambling band—a certifiably vagabond unit that built a reputation among American and European audiences as fine-tuned, ironclad locomotive and candy sweet heavy pop machine. Barnstorming the Great Plains….stealing afternoons from the unsuspecting on the European festival-go-round…hooking the uninitiated opening for the Arctic Monkeys, Black Angels, and Low Anthem, they’ve done yeoman’s work, sparked the party, and made the music sound young again.

Sleepy Sun’s miles, months, and days in the van are a tangible presence in Spine Hits, an LP of whimsy, restlessness, and urgency that leaps nimbly from landscape to landscape with ease, irreverence, and a catch-em-before-they-ain’t changeling nature. For the most part, the sprawling Zeppelin-esque epics that defined much of Embrace and Fever have been traded in for a potent pop-compact framework. But never at the expense of the dodging, juking, and downshifting instincts that set their older long form pieces apart from a thousand other psychedelic drone warriors.

Recorded under the big skies of the California high desert with Queens of Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal alumnus Dave Catching, the jams on Spine Hits are alternatingly precision whittled and moodily muscular. Matt Holliman and Evan Reiss’ guitars adroitly move from steamroller heavy to beachside airy and bouncing to interstellar—tinkering with texture and dynamics like never before. Vocalist Bret Constantino sings with a road-toughened, husky soul yowl and hush that occasionally betrays a society-weary frustration but more often hints at a way out. The rhythm section of drummer Brian Tice and Jack Allen is a super-cohesive, tricky, and tough-as-hell unit that keeps the Sleepy train on track as it teeters, creeps and runs wild across the land.

To any seasoned Sleepy Sun listener the new destinations will be surprises and revelations. “V.O.G.” hints at a backstage conspiracy hatched on the Arctic Monkeys tour—buoyant and tight as a wire. “Boat Trip” moseys with a Lou Reed offhandedness—a postcard from Brian Wilson’s forgotten vacation with the Velvets.
“Still Breathing” is an elegiac nod to the band’s early alignment with the Verve’s dreamworlds.

For Sleepy spotters that came to love the band in its most massively rocking incarnations, there are the slow burns—“Stivey Pond” a sinister, stalking, and tender lurching beast bearing down on the subject of its obsession. And “Lioness (Requiem)”—a drifting, drowsy, late night lost in contemplation, dawn nowhere in sight.

Light Fantastic

While a musical project that had been in the works for a few years, Light Fantastic was officially hatched recently, during the warmest winter in San Francisco in memory. In an effort to harness the unusually blue skies, Terry Sowers (who has played with Farmer Dave’s SF live band) and Jeremy Bringetto (Tamaryn, Bellavista) paired up to realize the sunnier side of pop music, inspired as much by obscure California sunshine pop records as the late night soul music often heard spilling out of the local club scene. The result is something that manages to be uplifting without naiveté, thoughtful and sometimes danceable, stumbling upon a sound that perhaps reaches similar conclusions as UK bands from decades past—albeit with a current and beachier twist. They are currently recording their first LP with members of Tamaryn.

Dylan Shearer

In 2009, Raven Sings The Blues wrote, “Planted/Plans brims with the kind of bedroom pop that only seems to make sense in those midnight hours between 2 and 4, the times when humidity keeps you awake and spinning on your pillow.” Born in Lancaster, California, a small town surrounded by the Mojave Desert, this interpretation only makes sense. While bedroom pop is not a genre often equated with the desert, Dylan Shearers take on the style evokes a sense of loneliness and isolation only the vast open, seemingly endless nature of a desert can induce - all within the confines of a three-minute pop song mind you.

Dylan Shearer began writing and recording songs at the age of 10, often backing his father’s blues on bass. In the mid-nineties he played in the noise outfit, Soup 9. During these years he wrote hundreds of songs, but soon became tired of the constraints of traditional song-form, trading in his guitar for an accordion played through two kaoss pads, his desert surroundings for the coastal town of Santa Cruz, and pop form for free improvisation. In 2005, after the death of his father Dylan moved an hour-and-a-half North to San Francisco and returned to his pop-song roots, recording 2005’s Carousel Doors and 2009’s critically lauded Planted/Plans. Released on Yik Yak records (R.I.P) in a miniscule run of 100 LPs, Planted/Plans attracted the enthusiastic attention of music blogs such as Raven Sings the Blues, Chocolate Bobka, and journalist such as David Keenan who wrote, “The songs are great, memorable acoustic constructs that conjure all sorts of phantom hooks from out of the air.” With comparisons to Syd Barret, Kevin Ayers, Nick Drake, and Ray Davies, Shearer quielty built a scattered but devoted fanbase drawn to his inimitable voice and lonesome, but hopelessly catchy melodies. Secret Seven’s inclusion of Shearer’s song, “4 In The Morning House” on the popular In a Cloud San Francisco compilation exposed him to a wider audience than the small run of Planted/Plans allowed and established him as a fixture in the San Francisco music scene. Since then Shearer has continued his career as a social worker while steadily laying down track after track, which will see the light of day as Porchpuddles, due out on Empty Cellar Records in late spring 2012.

"Shearer has made an album that has a permanent line running through it. Though Planted/Plans strikes a chord with both misery and hope, directly in the middle runs an awkward yet beautifully attractive hybrid of those emotions. Either purged or absorbed, obscure or illuminated, public or private, Shearer emotes a voice that will surely outlive his Facebook account."
-- The Agit Reader

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