Release Date: Oct 25, 2010
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic
Chimes explode like sparklers on "Infinity," the opening track on Sun Airway's debut album. The same dreamily magic effects are sprinkled through the rest of Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. It shines and glimmers with effervescent keyboard puttering and melodies as beautiful as anything on Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill wrote and recorded Nocturne in Barthmus' basement studio in Philadelphia, incorporating field recordings into original compositions.
If you're lucky enough to be in NYC for CMJ this week, check out hotly tipped Philly duo Sun Airway. The sufficiently weird, tropical-inflected indie rock on their debut has scored them a ton of gigs around the fest and a slot at Pitchfork's Offline showcase. [rssbreak] Singer/band leader Jon Barthmus and accomplice Patrick Marsceill craft breezy songs that combine Strokes/Walkmen vocals with swirling, romantic soundscapes.
Indie rock has gone through something of a facelift in recent years. There’s been an increasing prolificacy of prettiness in buzz bands, from Grizzly Bear and chillwave to Merriweather Post Pavilion and Sufjan Stevens. This isn’t just the longstanding ‘90s-ish fascination with twee—these bands aren’t interested in sounding cute, but actually ethereally beautiful.
From a cursory survey of its beaming major-key melodies, swirling synth tones, and drum machine chatter dipped in dubby reverb, it would be easy to slot Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier with prevailing indie trends, slap on few a "RIYL"s, and leave it to the listener to decide whether or not to move on. But should it matter that Philadelphia duo Sun Airway wrote most of these songs long before the release of Merriweather Post Pavilion? In this case, I'd say it does: A lot of current acts working in a similar vein intrigue through potential and seem to have a better grasp on how to adopt still-fresh influences than they do on songwriting. But Sun Airway invert that balance, radiating warmth instead of sounding warped by it.
Belonging to Philadelphia’s booming independent rock scene, Sun Airway have made a name for themselves by implementing the more sonically charged branch of pop music. Bored of making guitar chords the center of their sound with past groups, main songwriter Jon Barthmus shifted this more conventional approach by painting electronic strokes without forgetting the rewards that come from building structured pieces of songcraft. Bringing member Patrick Marsceill along for the ride, attention quickly grew after they spruced up intriguing remixes of hotly-tipped acts such as Delorean, Here we Go Magic, and Caribou.
The dreamy psych-pop Sun Airway purveys on Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier lives up to the album title: awash in glittering keyboards and guitars, everything sparkles. The band’s effervescent sound hovers somewhere in between the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev's lush pocket symphonies and Phoenix's impeccable style. Throughout the album, Sun Airway are abuzz with new love, or perhaps something more chemical: “I looked over and saw you floatin’ next to me,” Jon Barthmus sings on the opening track, “Infinity,” as shimmering electronics and found sounds spiral around him.
Music is moving quickly. So quickly, that Animal Collective will be working hard on putting clear blue water between themselves and Merriweather Post Pavilion. That is, before the inevitable occurs and they start getting accused of parodying themselves and/or imitating the music landscape they just created. While Baltimore's finest and Sun Airway - who hail from Philadelphia - currently share very different trajectories, the vapour trails left by their individual takes on hazy-but-hopeful electronica do criss-cross quite a bit.
The chillaxing enterprise of Philadelphia duo [b]Patrick Marsciell[/b] and [b]Jon Bathmus[/b], [a]Sun Airway[/a]’s inaugural effort sounds like your dad’s attempts to muscle in on your glo-fi collection 12 months too late. [a]Coldplay[/a] meets [a]Toro Y Moi[/a], [a]Empire Of The Sun[/a] meets [a]Animal Collective[/a] — there’s not a commercial/edgy mismatch too far for this lot, whose use of swaddling synth washes and skittering drum patterns can’t disguise a polite conservatism at work here. It’s tuneful enough but, really, the case for the dismantling of 2010’s nostalgic apparatus starts here.