Sleepy Sun – Spine Hits – Album Review

Hailing from San Francisco, Sleepy Sun is set to release the third LP of their career, Spine Hits. An extremely well produced and executed endeavor recorded in California this past December with Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Deathmetals’ Dave Catching. This latest offering is extraordinary in scope and has turned out to be a spectacular showcase of their collaborative skills and efforts.

‘Stivey Pond’ is a perfect intro to this album – immediately and unabashedly plunging the listener headfirst into the torrid psychedelic landscape. The song opens with deceptively subtle acoustics, and then charges headfirst into gritty bass and bluesy guitar riffs ingeniously spaced throughout. It blends seamlessly with dreamy interludes that skillfully mirror the brooding nature of the lyrics.

Next comes the whimsical and upbeat ‘She Rex’ with its upbeat rhythm and punchy guitar licks.  ‘She Rex’ features hauntingly beautiful harmonies and lovelorn lyrics delivered with a sincerity that is quite touching and effective.

‘Siouxie Blaqq’ immediately reminded me both of 1967’s The Velvet Underground, Nico and early Jane’s Addiction. It’s a dreamy jaunt which allows listeners to drift away on a cloud of lovingly crafted psychedelia followed by the raucous guitar styling’s of ‘Creature’. 

‘Creature’ doesn’t stray far from that heady feeling as the band expertly guides their audience on a really good trip.  It let’s the ‘grooviness’ of the chorus lift our spirits and finally exits with a good old head-banging guitar solo.

Not detracting from that singular experience, ‘Boat Trip’ gently rolls in like a breezy sun-filled day on the grassy prairie – the rippling waves not unlike those on the briny. The easy and cheerful guitar melodies along with the delightful acoustic picking and strumming evokes bygone days of youthful summers and is a very pleasant excursion all around.

Next up, ‘V.O.G.’ showcases Sleepy Sun’s uncanny ability to mix blues with a psychedelic 60’s feel a la Led Zeppelin whom they have been compared to on their first two albums, Embrace and Fever.

‘Martyr’s Mantra’ is a soulful lament with poignant lyrics and a catchy chorus with a really kick-ass drum solo amidst a gritty and robust base line that is consistent with the somber tone of the song. It has more of a pop rock flavor about it and reminded me a little of Jesus and The Mary Chain. 

Impressive really doesn’t begin to describe the complex rhythms of drummer Brian Tice and Jack Allen’s explosive and raw bass lines. Together they form the solid structure underlying ‘Spine Hits’, with its dynamic and far-reaching guitars played by Matt Hollimen and Evan Reiss. Vocalist Brett Constantino, whose clarity and tone is subtle one minute and the next is raspy and powerful, skillfully conveys the mood of each and every segment of every song.

‘Still Breathing’ has a spellbinding intro that eventually leads to some gentle acoustic strums. The forlorn harmonica solo seems to pull at the heartstrings and encapsulates the mood of the song.

Haunting and undeniably a highlight of this LP, ‘Yellow End’ is uplifting and a real tribute to rock ballads of old. I was really drawn to the melody and tone of this song. It is both beautiful and genuine and the chorus is absolutely magical.

‘Deep War’ showcases everyone’s talent and all the best that Sleepy Sun has to offer with it’s commanding bass, brilliant guitar solos, tight percussion, keen lyrics, richly textured vocals and a catchy chorus.

Rounding out the album is the highly refined and darkly colored anthem ‘Lioness (Requiem)’ with its spellbinding melody, complex layering, cleverly inventive drumming and evocative lyrics.  This track erupts into an intense guitar solo that wraps up the last minute of the song and the new LP.

Spine Hits has taken Sleepy Sun to new heights. It is savvy and sharp, sentimental and poignant, innovative and intricate. Existing fans will feel compelled to grow with them and they will most certainly expand their audience with this amazingly astute effort.