Sleepy Sun has evolved from precocious northern California Psychedelic upstarts to seasoned veterans in the time it takes some bands to inhale a single bong hit. Coalescing in 2008, the Santa Cruz, Calif., crew moved to their genre of choice’s creative and spiritual birthplace, San Francisco, and quickly dropped a pair of well-received albums — 2009’s Embrace and 2010’s Fever — driven by tripped-out guitar reveries, unpredictable sonic U-turns and founder/frontdude Bret Constantino’s and Rachel Fannan’s evocative, Black Mountain-esque male/female vocal dynamic. Multiple appearances at SXSW and All Tomorrow’s Parties — which releases SS’s records on its boutique label — and opening slots with everyone from Black Angels and Low Anthem to Arctic Monkeys and Mudhoney followed, as did a dedicated audience of head-nodding Psych aesthetes.
Fannan left the band last year to pursue her own thing — a development that inevitably influenced the direction of Spine Hits, SS’s just-released third LP.
“They are more concise with less space in terms of length, more concentrated and conceptualized,” Constantino said in a recent interview with KDHX of the songs that make up Spine Hits. “Whatever felt good we went with. We’re trying to take more of a ‘mature approach’ — at least that’s what we’re calling it.”
Along those lines, the addictive “Boat Trip” sways sweetly, trading in the riff-heavy bombast of the SS’s past for a more laid-back, Folk-inflected approach buoyed by Constantino’s subtly expressive vocal delivery and an atmospheric undercurrent that brings to mind Fleet Foxes by way of The Velvet Underground. The album’s centerpiece is “Martyr’s Mantra,” a sonically concise yet still dynamic mini-epic that finds Constantino telling us, “It’s you, it’s your fault/It’s been you all along,” before repeatedly begging, “Cold killer, come closer/Don’t push me away.”
SLEEPY SUN performs Wednesday, April 18 at MOTR Pub with guest White Hills. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.