You know a band are doing something right when five-minute songs finish up and you're pissed. As in: Give me more of that! I'm basically pissed every time a Sunset Heart song comes to a close. The five songs (plus a Glass Fingers remix) on the new EP Deco Tech are a continuation of everything the band did well on last year's debut, Inside the Haunted Cloud: an impossibly dense mish-mash of keyboards, live drums and percussion, guitar riffs, and smart lyrics that somehow manage to be melancholy and perfectly danceable at the same time.
What's great about this follow-up is that it's not a new direction, or a collection of songs that didn't make the cut, but rather more of the same from a songwriter in Casey McCurry, and the eight-piece band as a whole, that is simply fired up about the music swirling around his head. Nor does it sound redundant or overly similar.
Yes, the dueling guitars from "Too Wet to Pet," played by Matthew Erickson and Jason Ingalls, deliver a familiar tone from Haunted Cloud, but they made you wait for it till the third song and by then it's just so satisfying. "I don't remember songs we sang before," McCurry sings without any irony, "it makes me wonder what my memory's for." Then the song drives bassy with Sydney Bourke and gets just about tribal before circling back to the opening guitar play.
"Ask Away" is positively plaintive in the open, with a crazed keyboard from Jesse Hautala that's hard not fall in love with. This tune has the best harmony with sister Sadie McCurry, too, before finishing in a hard charge that's almost heavy, but stays up in the cymbals so it's instead airy, like you've lost all hold on gravity. When McCurry claims "I didn't tell you nothing" it's unclear whether he told you anything at all or everything, and it's that kind of ambiguity, a general total unpredictability, that makes his songwriting so strong.
I'm not even sure what's making the jaunty repeating riff that's the heart of "Horsie Forces," but it's got an undeniable bounce very at odds with the repeating central phrases of, "I stole your pain/I don't plan to ever give it back/It's become my own." There are splashes of distorted synths, distended drums from Max Heinz, a whispered curiosity: "Why would you want me to?"
Well, like the Judybats said, pain makes you beautiful, and, at times, the mix here is kind of painful, too, with vocals farther back than they should be and a general feeling that the instruments could all be crisper and more distinct — "Past Lives" particularly needs some bottom. This is just a bite to tide you over, though, I suspect. There's more fun stuff where this came from.
DECO TECH | Released by Sunset Hearts | with Foam Castles + Mai, Mai + Glass Fingers + Altered Gee + Verla | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | June 2 | sunsethearts.bandcamp.com