Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
Have you ever heard Pleasures & Treasures? In 2007, I was in a Philadelphia record store, sort of propped in front of the new releases like living wannabe-hip sculpture. A brick of CDs in one hand, maybe some thin LPs warming underneath my armpit, I had limited funds and unlimited wants, (we’ve all been there), so I was in the process of making sure I had what I wanted before redistributing my hard-earned wealth. Pleasures & Treasures caught my attention: a simple, green rusty shitbox of a van seemingly abandoned, the band’s name, SIC ALPS, almost subtly scrawled in Krylon.
During the lo-fi/shitgaze craze that crested a couple of years ago (and keeps chugging along now, albeit to lesser blog buzz), bands were coming out of the woodwork to unleash an avalanche of cassettes, 7-inches, CD-Rs, and even some old-fashioned “proper” albums on established labels. The energy and excitement of these recordings were the major draws, with groups pounding them out as if they had invented home recording, even rock ‘n’ roll itself. But while there was certainly an abundance of talented musicians — The Hospitals, Eat Skull, Psychedelic Horseshit — it was unclear what some of these groups would do beyond their two- to three-minute up-tempo rock tunes, if they’d do anything at all.
The two-and-a-half-year gap between Sic Alps' 2008 album U.S. EZ and Napa Asylum was pretty sizable, especially considering how prolific the band had been up to that point. While Matt Hartman and Mike Donovan took some time to catch their breath, they signed to Drag City (which reissued A Long Way Around To A Shortcut in 2009) and became a trio, adding guitarist Noel Von Harmonson to the fold.
Sic Alps' simple garage-rock is both enticing and uncomfortable. They approach classic melody in miniature, chipping nuggets off of Nuggets, and they never go far without an inviting little hook. But they don't let those hooks last long either. Their songs are spare and distant, reveling in negative space and moving with a deliberate, lopsided gait.
Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman are Sic Alps, a San Francisco-based duo who have been producing lo-fi pop at a prodigious rate since the mid Noughties. Their dual releases in 2008, U.S. Ez and A Long Way to a Short Cut effectively showed off the band’s range, which ventures from all-out sludge noise to Beatles-y influenced melodies sieved through a thick wall of distortion.
Imagine a record store clerk. She is excited that some kids—some really young kids, like teenagers, here—have begun to come into her store pretty regularly. And not to loiter, but to buy records. Actual records, on vinyl. They even seem to have some taste, split between them. They bought that ….