If there is an appropriate record to celebrate spring's anticipated arrival in Baltimore, it must be this instantly engaging six-track EP from local indie-pop quintet Sun Club.
Technically, "Dad Claps at the Mom Prom" was released in January by Brooklyn, N.Y., label Goodnight Records, but its enthusiastically bright pop songs -- all filled with dynamic flourishes, high-in-the-mix alternating vocals and a jovial looseness more indie-rock bands could use -- feel like the audio equivalent of salt on slick sidewalks. As the weather warms, "Dad Claps" emerges as a welcome soundtrack to sunnier days.
The group, formerly known as Pandomonia, shows its hand from the outset. Opening track "Beauty Meat" establishes what to expect over the EP's 18 minutes: chiseled melody lines, major chords, uplifting crew vocals and a palpable sense that these guys are not only talented but have a great time showing it.
It's as if Sun Club -- whose members' ages range between 19 and 22 -- cherry-picked the most viscerally rewarding aspects of music site Pitchfork's most championed acts in recent years, and used them to craft a rollicking record that never weakens its grip on the listener. You will hear elements of Vampire Weekend's nimble guitar work, Animal Collective (the vocals on "Repulsive on Chocolate" recall those of Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox), and even the less-dystopian moments of Arcade Fire.
Intriguingly, the EP -- like the band that made it -- contains a humorous streak that borders on absurd. The nonsensical title track is 29 seconds of what sounds like a male playing video games. He repeats the "life advice" from the band's Facebook biography: "If it ain't heatin', it's oversweetin'." If the joke went over your head, you are not alone.
Yet there is something refreshing about a band of friends unafraid to make one another laugh, even if a joke is impenetrable to outsiders. It reminds me of the humor ushered into Baltimore by Dan Deacon and the Wham City collective years ago. Just like the artists from that era, Sun Club knows its charm shines through clearest with a bit of levity included. Besides, these "dirty sunshine pop" songs (in this case, the label's description of the band's sound fits well) are so sure-handedly well-crafted that there is no question Sun Club takes songwriting -- what ultimately counts most -- seriously.
When I spoke with Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner earlier this year, we spent most of the time talking about her solo project, the excellent Flock of Dimes. But later in the interview, Wasner noticeably perked up when asked about a pop collaboration with White Life's Jon Ehrens.
"It's some of the best stuff we've ever done," Wasner said. "It's happening more slowly than both of us would like. He's a super talented songwriter. I shine in the pop spectrum more than I was expecting."
The duo calls themselves Dungeonesse, and the first single and video was released today, and it backs up Wasner's claims in an impressive way. "Drive You Crazy" is a skittering dance track that should have no problem getting people out of their seats. The production has a lot going on (busy drums, quick synth stabs), but it never suffocates Wasner, whose voice floats above it all. It's an exuberant track that leaves you wondering, "Is it Friday, yet?"
Watch the video — which was filmed at the Nudashank Gallery in Baltimore and directed by Matthew Yake — above.
The "Drive You Crazy" b/w "Private Party" 12-inch single will be released on Dec. 11 via Secretly Canadian.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER
Wesley Case is a features reporter for the Baltimore Sun and b. Since October 2008, he's covered Baltimore's burgeoning music and arts scene, including b cover stories on Dan Deacon, Beach House and Rome Cee. Between March and August 2011, he launched and wrote a pop music blog for b called Louder Now. He now handles the Midnight Sun nightlife blog.