Sunjacket are a band from Chicago, who’s sound ranges from dark, synth-driven pop to layered, syncopated rock. Their debut LP ‘Mantra’ fuses different tropes to great effect: it’s unusual, thoughtful and definitely not the typical ‘indie’ music that we’re hearing a lot of at the minute. What must be noted is the band’s use of varying instruments and tonal ambiguity, this stylistic element works to add more depth to the songs, a tactic used similarly by experimentalist’s Everything Everything.
The first song on the LP is ‘Grandstanders’ which starts off with a steady beat and two vocals over layering, playing with the push/pull of tension. As the track climaxes, a slower pace feeds into half-speed vocals and piano keys, making for a dynamic introduction to the record. But as suddenly as ‘Grandstanders’ ends, the leading Tame Impala-styled synths of ‘Creepy’ launch into action. Tempo speeds into the distance and a heavier spread of instruments and vocals combine to form a calming tone.
The album hits an interlude midway through on track five ‘Tongue’, definitely purposeful and completely off-kilter. A great sign for a band at this early stage in their career. Sunjacket are no followers, they are trailblazers, innovators, stylistic pioneers – a breath of fresh air. ‘Tongue’ feels like an awakening. Rattling electronic dissonance feeds into brass and percussive sounds, which fade and then grow louder symbolising an awakening. The faint vocals hover in and out of the periphery, which become haunting due to the manipulation of the synthesizers. This technique creates a sense of calm, and breaks up the typical vocal style used on the rest of the LP, also working to highlight the importance of their ability to make each song a masterpiece.
The track that follows (‘No Ones Around‘) is a heavy contrast, kicking into action immediately, allowing a more happy feel to take being with an upbeat piano melody. This time the vocals are back to their original form and sang in unison. ‘Not Enough’ starts with piano keys and synth, going into a hectic breakdown of percussion and bass. The beat stays quite choppy but the vocals run clear throughout, until a climatic moment before the chorus, where everything drops out to reveal a more ‘pop’ filled chorus.
Ending on the album’s title-track ‘Mantra’, Sunjacket leave us with a layering of vocals that both excite and create a depth of clarity. The word “mantra” meaning a repeated phrase, a term that is usually seen as religious. This song stuck with me, partly because of its hypnotising vocals and partly for its use of interesting sounds, rumbling and crackling beneath almost like the sound of a Geiger counter. As such, this finale lingers as it fades, not ending suddenly but not dragged out either.
The debut album ‘Mantra’ is set for release on September 16th. Pre-order at http://sunjacket.net/.