By Rebekah Goode-Peoples & Ryan Peoples
The first track on Soulo’s third album, Sun Valley on Plug Research Records, starts out with intermittent studio chatter, the nuts, bolts and aggravations of recording music, the underbelly of the polished finished product. Gradually the melodic finished layer takes over, growing from chaos into song. And the song “Up Where the Clouds Come Down” is just as simple, ethereal and easy-going as the title suggests. This is the goal of the album: to let go and just float.
Question: But now that we’re up here, where will we go?
The answer: Straight to the sun.
The catchy “Who’s Gonna Warm the Sun” immediately brings to our minds the loveable “Jaykub” by Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse. Simple grooves with lots of layers draw us in with a driving string section and a Sigur Ros style falsetto that all the cool kids are using these days (see: The Besnard Lakes, Chad VanGaalen, The Shins). Later those easy vocal lines get caught in a storm of processed echoes and delays in “Yorktown For Nine Months” and get lost entirely on the instrumental “Tropical Malady,” a song that treads water in the same pool where Air swims.
We admire Soulo’s experimentation and clear understanding of pop, but sometimes we want a clear destination. The heavy dose of reverbs and delays is sometimes muddy and comes off as sonically immature. Clearly ambitious, Soulo have attempted to create something huge, epic and powerful, though these songs don’t quite have the same weight and power of a band that can hit you hard like Arcade Fire.
But they are trying.
Sun Valley is groovy, thoughtful and creative. We see what they are shooting for, and we can almost hear it. They’ve got the sonic glue, that elusive trait that connects an album’s tracks without being repetitive. They’ve got a joyful spirit that comes through in the album’s more playful moments. Listening to it is by turns like swimming and floating. Either way we’re not on the ground.
As an extra bonus here are two covers that do not appear on Sun Valley.