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Sea Lion (Bonus Track Version)

The Ruby Suns

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Album Review

Having already established his Beach Boys fascination with 2005's self-titled debut, Ryan McPhun reached into his travel journals for Sea Lion, spiking the Ruby Suns' pop/psychedelia with ample amounts of African, Polynesian, and Kenyan instrumentation. The resulting album follows the recent paths of Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend by finding some middle ground between indie pop and world music. Sea Lion is an aural melting pot, with ukuleles and sun-baked singalongs sharing space alongside '80s-styled electronica and programmed percussion. It unfolds in layers, opening with the spacey Hawaiian cadence of "Blue Penguin" before segueing into two of the album's most genuine folk numbers. "Oh, Mojave" and "Tane Mahuta" are as earnest as they are indigenous, the latter featuring polyphonic percussion and elegantly harmonized lyrics sung in the Polynesian dialect of Maori. Throughout it all, McPhun weaves in modern production — a processed keyboard here, a vocal effect there — so that by the time "There Are Birds" introduces a bit of hypnotic dream pop into the mix, it hardly sounds out of place. The Ruby Suns still remain heavily indebted to Brian Wilson, but they largely confine themselves to his enigmatic SMiLE period, making heavy use of sleigh bells, vibraphones, and reverb-washed vocals throughout the album's second half. Only when "Morning Sun" takes an abrupt turn into Depeche Mode territory does Sea Lion falter, particularly given its final position in the track list. Listeners are left scratching their heads, wondering where the enigmatic jungle pop music went, only to return to McPhun's sunny sounds once the album reverts back to track one. Culture clashes never sounded so good.

Customer Reviews

arcade fire gone a bit electronic

downloaded this cause the name sounded pretty not knowing what to expect! morning sun perhaps the highlight sounding like arcade fire, the delays with some chime things. Go for it, pretty and amazing - you won't have heard this before.

Polynesian shoegaze surf music

For a while I toyed with the idea of inventing a genre called "tectonic rift music" to capture the similarities between this and Icelandic bands such as Sea Bear and Sin Fang Bous. What they have in common is a multi-layered sound with a great sense of space and a strong rooting in folk traditions. What divides them is that where Icelandic music has a coolness siuted to a land of grey skies and barren mountains, the Ruby Suns explode with warmth and tropical sunlight. For me the best songs come at the beginning and end. From the quiet, watery dreamscape of Blue Penguin, through the clattering sing=alongs of Oh Mojave and Tane Mahuta to the dream pop of There are Birds, the album seems to go from the strength to strength. There's a moodier patch then for the next 3 songs, before things pick back up at the end. Even the moodier songs have their appeal however, they a little like the Beach Boys rendered semi-comatose by a benign tropical sleeping draft. Lovely stuff!

Biography

Formed: 2004 in Auckland, New Zealand

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Ruby Suns combine psychedelic indie pop with world music influences, drawing inspiration from the travels of the group's only permanent member, Ryan McPhun. Although born and raised in California, McPhun's thirst for adventure eventually drew him halfway across the globe, where he ventured into Africa and Thailand before settling in New Zealand. Auckland's music scene was rich, and the multi-instrumentalist spent time in various pop groups (the Tokey Tones, the Reduction Agents, and the Brunettes)...
Full bio
Sea Lion (Bonus Track Version), The Ruby Suns
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