In the two or so years that Sun Hotel has been in existence, they’ve quickly grown from a fledgling two-man instrumental project into a rock n’ roll nerve center – housing as many as six constantly revolving mini-bands and managing to found local DIY label Chinquapin Records with brother group Caddywhompus. With such a manically multi-faceted creative energy and a never-ending touring prowess, it’s surprising this young band ever gets around to recording any music. Nevertheless, last year’s Coast – their full length self-released debut – not only proved to be a natural tightening of the screws from their previous EPs (well-recorded in their own right), but also sported a wholesome, spacious production value well beyond the band’s assumed experience and resources.
Just over a year since that album’s release, Sun Hotel has resurfaced with Gifts, a surprising EP that may mark a subtle shift in creative direction with murkier, cloudier textures that predicate a hopelessly contemplative lyrical subject matter. Having eschewed the often turbulent job of working out of a professional studio in favor of the cozy confines of an acoustically echoic living room, in-house production prodigy Ross Farbe has crafted a musical canvas both grandiose and claustrophobic, at times smoothly refined and other times altogether disheveled and squalid.
Suffusing every guitar string, bass rattle and whisper on opener “Talks” with wave after wave of delay and reverb, the band balances their inescapable pop sensibilities with deafening walls of white noise and subtle electronic arrangements. Elsewhere, the bass and lead guitar tandem of John St. Cyr and Alex Hertz, respectively, overlay the epic structure of centerpiece “Ease” with a thick, warm tone equal parts nostalgia and melancholy, while drummer Devin Hildebrand, in his swansong, channels his usually intense technique into an emphatically chaotic rumble.
They lead you through some of catchiest choruses in Sun Hotel’s canon to date (the repetitious phrase “Wrong about a lot of things now” is an earworm if there ever was), but one can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of concord with singer/songwriter Tyler Scurlock’s wistful, everyman lyrical sentiment, whether it be his earnest fear of emotional withdrawal, his disgust of sanctimony, or his pensive tendency to “turn to ‘Good Vibrations'”. And the production on Gifts – a departure from the cleaner, chamber pop vibes of some of the band’s earlier efforts – is not only an an appropriate fit, but essential to the EP’s cohesiveness and success.