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CD Review: Sun Airway

BY EVAN CLARK | NOVEMBER 02, 2010 7:15 AM

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*** 1/2 out of *****

Philadelphia band Sun Airway is the new kid on the indie block this year. The group has had a busy year after first showing up on the radar with a dreamy remix of Spanish dance masters Delorean’s “Stay Close,” followed by a recent October set at the Pitchfork music stage in New York City’s coveted CMJ Music Marathon Festival. And after spending the year building this buzz, Sun Airway has finally released its début LP, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier.

The music on the album is just as ambitious as its album title. Each song floats gently one after the other like clouds on a sunny day, which is exactly the perfect setting for experiencing the album. The album begins with the breathtaking track “Infinity,” which sounds like Dorothy returning to the Emerald City in another dream at Oz.

Each song is structured with different layers of guitars and keyboards that build up as the listener moves further into each track until a new dream begins with the next piece.

I can’t help but think of Chris Martin every time the vocals come in, but the singing wasn’t what stood out. Sun Airway blends crafty pop melodies with dreamlike sound production, and that is successful for the most part. The influences of early ’90s shoe-gaze legends My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins are everywhere on Nocturne, yet the songs on the album seem fairly mainstream for the most part. Such songs as “American West” and “Your Moon” demonstrate the group’s ability to balance its identity with something that is catchy, yet still original.

The electronic drum samples on such tracks as “Waiting For You” and “Shared Piano” sound like beats taken from an Aphex Twin B-side, which strengthens the songs rather than using traditional tempos of normal dancehall drum beats. Though the recent trend of what can be labeled as the “Laptop Music Era” (in which bands such as Sun Airway perform live shows with nothing more than a few guitars, keyboards, and laptops to provide percussion) seems to be close to running its course, the band is still able to find a way to play in its own atmosphere of sound while not coming off as too experimental.

Nocturne features many standout tracks, but what makes the album better than just a few singles is the lack of any filler material. Each song has its own purpose and fits together like different chapters of a book. The album as a whole features many upbeat and optimistic songs, but never something you’d hear on a dance floor. The tracks sound almost as if fellow indie synth masters Passion Pit were prescribed Xanax. Sun Airway is music for your headphones as you lie out under the Sun with your eyes closed, which can serve as a mental vacation as we now find ourselves in full autumn mode.


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