WIDE AWAKE: Satellite Lot.
No fair naming names, but not long after my list of the top local albums of 2005 was released with Satellite Lot’s Second Summer at the top, I got an e-mail from a band whose album I’d sort of panned: “Hey, I just picked up Second Summer... this album fucking ROCKS. Good choice, definitely number one. I’ve never heard anything this good out of Portland. Are there any other bands you would recommend in the area making music this good?”
|Sleepwalk In A BurningBuilding | Released by Satellite Lot | with Diamond Sharp + Brenda + Elf Princess Gets a Harley | at SPACE Gallery, in Portland | Dec 14 ||
Well, sure, I wrote back, there’s Cult Maze, An Evening With, Phantom Buffalo, Diamond Sharp, the Enchantments — and those are just the bands making great music in Portland within the same genre. But that debut record was certainly remarkable in part because it was so unexpected. Though they’d been playing in Portland in various forms for a good five years, no one would have told you in 2005 that Satellite Lot were one of the biggest draws, that’s for sure, nor a favorite to put out the best album of the year.
Two years later, the band remain something of an enigma — incredibly well respected, yet unable to keep a stable lineup in place, only rarely playing out in Portland, and about to release a follow-up record, December 14 at SPACE, that would seem to have come out of the blue. And the album they’re delivering was recorded entirely in their practice space, mixed and mastered by guitarist-and-more Casey McCurry, without any professional studio intervention.
“It still sounds like clown shoes,” McCurry offers. “Everybody tells me it sounds really good, but it never sounds even close enough to a real record for us.” So why not record with a local studio? “With the process we use to write songs,” McCurry says, “we wouldn’t be able to go into a studio until we grow up or something.”
Judging by the results found on Sleepwalk in a Burning Building, the tradeoff is worth it. Yes, the instruments can sound mushy at times, and the vocals are buried on some tracks, making good lyrics hard to parse, but the songwriting is terrific — organic, original, dense, and slippery. Slightly more tightly focused than Second Summer, Satellite Lot here trade in some Jersey rock for the dance pop of bands like the Call, the Alarm, and Duran Duran, trading heavily on synthesizers and electronically enhanced beats.
“Never Again” leans more toward the rock, driven by Ben Landry’s heavy snare and finishing grandly with a reverb-laden guitar hook. In the middle, Aaron Hautala delivers the unrequited love song that became his stock-in-trade on Second Summer: “Tell me one thing/It’s just killing me/How long, how long did you know/That the life you’d grown to love would end in misery/Explode in my face?”