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Sleepy Sun - Private Tales (Album Review)

Thursday, 15 June 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

‘Private Tales’, the fifth studio album from San Francisco psychedelic rockers Sleepy Sun, arrives three years after an impressive predecessor, ‘Maui Tears’. With producer Colin Stewart returning after a two album absence, it’s almost as though the comfort of familiar friends being on hand, along with a newfound “spaciousness”, has brought them to a point where they’re making records in a much more relaxed state.

Tellingly, this lack of pressure has enabled them to let the songs develop rather than forcing them. “I appreciate the spaciousness that is left for the listener,” explained guitarist Evan Reiss. “I like music that gives them an opportunity to breathe, as opposed to jamming ideas into someone’s ears at all times.”

This approach is at the heart of the record. Opener Prodigal Vampire is a self-confessed “dronefest” where a misleadingly horrifying title masks an achingly gorgeous song.

Despite its lyrics telling of fangs sinking into flesh, it’s a moment of sublime ambience where Bret Constantino shares vocal duties with Hannah Moriah to create beautiful harmonies against a minimalist backdrop.

Lead single Seaquest then brings in the full band, linking seamlessly with its forerunner and evoking an air of grandiosity that recalls Pink Floyd. Its melodically perfect guitars create lazy, summery verses and a swooning chorus.

The album highlight – It’s Up To You – continues the Floydian overtures, but this time cranks them up as a stunning, floating soundscape is crafted. The notes are given the space to shine between emotion-soaked keyboard chords and flecks of guitar. Its solo, meanwhile, simply soars. It’s not quite Comfortably Numb, but it is awesome nonetheless.

The slower, sludgy When The Morning Comes recalls American psych stalwarts the Black Angels, with its vocals particularly reminiscent of Alex Maas. The constantly morphing cut veers sonically between the Angels and Canadian rockers Black Mountain, whose influence can also be seen on the crunching riffage of Crave before it heads down a lush, mellow path as its lyrics tell of a teacher-pupil relationship.

Inspired by a piano owned by Constantino, The Keys blends some brilliant Thin Lizzy style guitars with three-part vocal harmonies for the album’s most radio friendly moment. The laid back, percussion-free acoustic strumming of Plea features more divine harmonies, this time with the New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder stepping in. Closing the album, Reconcile then slow burns its way to a cataclysmic drum performance amid swirling guitars.

The depth of each track reveals itself gradually, rewarding those who invest the time and attention this album requires to be fully appreciated. And by allowing the songs on ‘Private Tales’ the room to play out on their own terms, the vastly underrated Sleepy Sun have delivered another excellent collection.

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