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Sun Club, 'Dad Claps at the Mom Prom' (Goodnight)( Handout )
RATING: *** 1/2 out of 4
LISTEN ON SPOTIFY: Sun Club, "Dad Claps at the Mom Prom"
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.
-- Wesley Case