Sun Airway, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier

Sun Airway, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier

Talk about your appropriately-named bands; Philadelphia duo Sun Airway (aka Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill) hit every note it sounds like they should be hitting, from the name, swooping and soaring their way straight into your (well, my, anyway) closet-romantic soul and smiling wide while they do it.

They’re atmospheric and high-flying but never content to just sit there and drift, instead using understated beats to propel things forward beneath the layers and layers (and layers and layers) of lush, beautiful, spacepop sound that explode (gently, of course) out of the speakers. Opener “Infinity” lays the groundwork with a sleepy, hazy, spaceward-pointing lope that sounds like a more streetwise, less etheral Spiritualized, maybe with Richard Ashcroft replacing Jason Pierce on the vocals.

Sun Airway quickly ups the tempo after that, however, with the driving-yet-still-lush “American West” cruising along over a thumping beat; the whole thing’s reminiscent of M83’s later, more ’80s-tinged stuff at points. This is bedroom pop, sure, but it’s bedroom pop (okay, basement pop, if you want to be technical) that’s less interested in staying in than it is in breaking through the ceiling, astral projection-style, and throwing a rave on the surface of some distant star.

From the suave, New Romantics-y “Oh, Naoko” on through the swooning, watery “Swallowed by the Night,” the skittering, Postal Service-like “Waiting on You,” and the oddly Eric Bachmann-ish “Put the Days Away,” Nocturne is freakishly addictive, forcing a grin across my face even when I’m in the worst of moods. This is very literally an album I couldn’t hate if I tried.

It’s not just the sunny, shiny, bright melodies and head-filling haze that does it, mind you, but also Barthmus’s smart, often cheeky lyricism, like on “Shared Piano,” where he declares (in an uncharacteristically somber moment, actually), “You stole the ivories / and you left me with the black keys / of our shared piano / in our silver room.” Or “Oh, Naoko,” where the lovelorn Barthmus swears, “I’ll be there / to lasso you the moonshine / in the back of your mind / just like a windchime,” and sounds like he damn well means it.

By the end of the album, I’ve come back around to the Spiritualized comparison yet again — Nocturne is like the album Pierce should have made after Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space. It may be more than a decade late, but Sun Airway’s wonderful effort bookends that album perfectly, and I suspect I’ll be listening to it nearly as often.

[Sun Airway is playing 3/15/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with Small Black, Eternal Summers, & Teletextile.]
(Dead Oceans -- 1499 West Second Street, Bloomington, IN. 47403; http://www.deadoceans.com/; Sun Airway -- http://sunairway.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Tuesday, March 15th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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