Fresh off a European tour that saw them playing the All Tomorrow's Parties and Primavera Festivals, San Francisco's Sleepy Sun return home Friday, June 19th to celebrate the release of their debut CD Embrace at the Great American Music Hall. The psych rock band's debut, out June 16th on ATP Recordings, has been receiving justly strong reviews, as have their energized live shows, and the opportunity to see a sure-to-be packed show featuring similarly talented supporting bands is an opportunity too good to pass up.
Sleepy Sun formed a few years ago in Santa Cruz, birthplace to psych rock bands like the influential Comets on Fire and popular psych experimentalists Mammatus. The group -- whose members are all in their early twenties -- eventually migrated to the City as many Santa Cruz bands do, and found a strong reception in the Bay Area before heading to Vancouver in January 2008 to record with Colin Stewart (Black Mountain, The Cave Singers). As that timeline might suggest, Embrace has been floating around for a while -- early on, the band was offering it up for free download -- but now sees a proper release that has made the band one of Bay Area indie music's most visible international ambassadors this year.
For a band best categorized as psych rock, and capable of intense, electrified moments, one of Embrace's great treats is the balance maintained between that heavy side and brighter sounds throghout. Moments like the way acoustic guitars add new dimensions to "New Age" and "Red/Black" or how vocalists Rachael Williams and Bret Constantino manage to float above, but not beyond, psychedelic workouts like "New Age" and "Sleepy Son" add a magnificent layered depth that helps prevent the group from ever getting bogged down. While the jams hint at the band's entrancing live shows, softer songs like "Lord" and "Golden Artifact" show their ability to create haunting, simply staggering melodies. The former, in particular, is on my short list for songs of the year; if "psych rock" is anathema to you, give this piano-driven folk-rock ballad a chance and see if it can't lure you in to Embrace.
Sleepy Sun's Constantino and Evan Reese recently lent vocal harmonies to "Two Birds," an early standout from When Sweet Sleep Returned, the latest album by San Francisco's Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound, who open the CD release show. Their new album is the band's third, and finds them balancing Neil Youngian American rock and roll with the trippier explorations enabled by having a resident thermin/synth player. After the show, they'll be heading on a brief West Coast tour with fellow Tee Pee Records band Weird Owl.
Los Angeles-based Spindrift also performs on Friday. The band's music blends the sounds of Spaghetti Westerns into its psychedelia, and they've taken their filmic qualities to new levels by actually making an independent Western titled The Legend of God's Gun based on one of their albums. The band's been compared to The Dandy Warhols, appropriate enough considering that their latest release, 2008's The West was released on the Dandys' Beat the World record label.