22 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

San Francisco’s fertile, poppy-dotted field of lo-fi psychedelia keeps blooming, and one of the earliest bands to, er, spread their seed is Sic Alps. Once a duo, they’ve added a second guitarist (Noel Von Harmonson of Comets On Fire) for their third album, and while it hasn’t made much of a change in their core sound — which varies wildly from shambling and spare to thick and dense — it has given them a slightly more solid foundation. Napa Asylum covers a lot of musical turf, and there is a tad more clarity making their summery, bongwater-drenched “pop” tunes like “Cement Surfboard” and “Occult Display,” their dirty blues freakouts like “The First White Man to Touch California Soil,” and their bad-trip implosions like “My My Lai” and “Trip Train” more memorable. “Zeppo Epp” sounds like an ancient cassette demo of a Flaming Lips song sketch, and the acoustic guitar sweetness of “Ball of Fame” and “Low Kid” offer welcome respite when things get heavy and dark (“Ranger” and “Nathan Livingston Maddox” are ... challenging). The title is likely a nod to a Northern California mental institution, which speaks clearly to the range of moods and timbres in these 22 tracks.

EDITORS’ NOTES

San Francisco’s fertile, poppy-dotted field of lo-fi psychedelia keeps blooming, and one of the earliest bands to, er, spread their seed is Sic Alps. Once a duo, they’ve added a second guitarist (Noel Von Harmonson of Comets On Fire) for their third album, and while it hasn’t made much of a change in their core sound — which varies wildly from shambling and spare to thick and dense — it has given them a slightly more solid foundation. Napa Asylum covers a lot of musical turf, and there is a tad more clarity making their summery, bongwater-drenched “pop” tunes like “Cement Surfboard” and “Occult Display,” their dirty blues freakouts like “The First White Man to Touch California Soil,” and their bad-trip implosions like “My My Lai” and “Trip Train” more memorable. “Zeppo Epp” sounds like an ancient cassette demo of a Flaming Lips song sketch, and the acoustic guitar sweetness of “Ball of Fame” and “Low Kid” offer welcome respite when things get heavy and dark (“Ranger” and “Nathan Livingston Maddox” are ... challenging). The title is likely a nod to a Northern California mental institution, which speaks clearly to the range of moods and timbres in these 22 tracks.

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About Sic Alps

Beginning as a messy, gritty indie rock affair rooted in noise pop and the Velvet Underground's seminal soporific lo-fi, Sic Alps formed in the early 2000s as a collaboration between Matt Hartman (formerly of Henry's Dress) and Mike Donovan (formerly of the Ropers); the two met in the late '90s while on tour with their respective bands. Starting with Semi-Streets, their cassette-only debut single released on Folding in the fall of 2004, Sic Alps released a little over half a dozen singles over the course of the next four years, along with three EPs (2006's The Soft Tour in Rough Form and Teenage Alps; 2007's Description of the Harbor) and a full-length album, A Long Way Around to a Shortcut, released on Animal Disguise in the spring of 2008. Another full-length album, U.S. EZ, was released on Siltbreeze that summer. Drag City reissued A Long Way Around to a Shortcut in 2009, and that year the band kept busy playing dates with Magik Markers, Times New Viking, and Sonic Youth. In 2010, Sic Alps played the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival, supported the band on its Brixton Academy show, and contributed a track to an Amnesty International compilation. The band's first new album for Drag City, Napa Asylum, arrived in January 2011 and was the first to feature new member Noel Von Haromonson. September 2012 saw the release of their self-titled sixth album, which offered a much more cleanly recorded sound and deeper delvings into psychedelic pop. The following year's She's on Top EP added a little muscle to the band's cleaned-up style. In July 2013, the group announced they were disbanding while on tour in Europe. That October, Donovan's solo debut WOT arrived. ~ Margaret Reges

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