Sun Hotel, Coast

Sun Hotel, Coast

If you squint, Sun Hotel’s Coast almost — almost — sounds like it emerged fully formed out of the Northern woods, full of Gibbard-y solemnity, Arcade Fire grandeur, and Moondoggies atmosphere. Dig deeper, though, and the vibe of the band’s Louisiana home bleeds through like murky water seeping in under the door, bringing all kinds of mysterious stuff along with it.

It takes a while to get to that point, mind you; when the album starts, opening track “Palms” is all slow, languid indie-folk-pop, meditative and somewhat cautionary-sounding but still open and welcoming, with singer/guitarist Tyler Scurlock declaring “these are your songs” with a weary smile. The track builds nicely to a roaring, high-flying crescendo that bears some resemblance to that aforementioned Canadian band that’s gotten a lot of big-time accolades lately.

What Sun Hotel’s quieter, more indie-rock-ish tracks really remind me of, however, is Austinites The Eastern Sea. Frontman Scurlock bears a serious vocal resemblance to the Sea’s Matthew Hines, and the bands’ songs share an understated, gorgeously layered beauty (well, most of ’em do, anyway), not to mention some smart, sharply-turned lyricism. None of which is a bad thing, of course, and the Sea is a darn good comparison to be able to make, at least in my book.

Granted, that Ben Gibbard influence does pop up quite a bit on Coast; “Oikos,” for one, starts off gentle and Death Cab-like before quickly getting rougher-edged and busier, all the while with Scurlock’s laidback, half-asleep vocals. A similar thing happens on “Seasonality,” while is deliberate and kind of somnolent but still nicely done. “Suburb” changes tracks a bit, coming off much more retro-folk than the rest, with the band’s penchant for whoa-oh-oh backing/harmony vocals calling to mind Fleet Foxes or The Moondoggies but with a lot more fire than either of those bands.

Coast doesn’t truly jump up and grab you, though — not completely — until “Loose Woman” hits. It’s bitter and rough, aiming in a different direction than most of the other tracks on here while pointing out their own hints of bayou-bred mysteriousness. The song’s like an indie-rock take on rollicking, jagged-edged swamp blues, and as vitriolic and venom-filled as it is, it elevates what would otherwise be a pretty good but not great album into something else entirely.

Scurlock’s menacing as all hell here, spurning the woman of the song’s title while simultaneously daring her to come along anyway and evoking the dark, murky, haunted side of the band’s home state when he sings, “‘Cause I don’t want to leave the swamp tonight / I feel the creakin’ and the shakin’ and the hands on my car / My goddamn acoustic guitar.” It’s hard to tell if he’s singing as himself or as some kind of groupie-bagging rocker, especially with lines like “I see the money and the whiskey and the girls at the bar / How’m I supposed to make this look hard?” Either way, the song works brilliantly.

“Voodoo You” follows close by, appropriately murky and swampified and raw, and by then it feels like that dark bayou water runs beneath each and every track, even the quiet, low-key “You (Shake)” or the Beatlesque “Egyptian Cotton.” Those aren’t tall, woody pines you’re seeing in your mind’s eye as Coast unfurls; they’re alien-looking cypress trees looming out of the mist.

[Sun Hotel is playing 3/15/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Sugar and Gold & Yip Receiver.]
(self-released; Sun Hotel -- http://www.sunhotelsounds.com/; Sun Hotel (Myspace) -- http://www.myspace.com/sunhotelsounds)
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Review by . Review posted Monday, March 14th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Sun Hotel, Coast

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Dance Down the Rain: Surviving Summerfest 2011, Day Two on June 20th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    […] end, I was very, very happy about that. I’d listened to & liked the band’s latest, Coast, so I was curious to hear and see what they were like live. What I heard was awesomely shimmery and […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Tonight: Caddywhompus + Sun Hotel + LIMB + Project Grimm on December 29th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    […] brought fellow New Orleans-dwellers Sun Hotel with ‘em; that band’s 2010 release, Coast, was a late-coming blast of holy-shit-that’s-great right into my ears this year, and […]

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