MUSIC: Review: The Archer's Apple, "Suburban Ocean"

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

Suburban Ocean, the new EP from Provo folk band The Archer’s Apple, galavants with a velvety staccato swagger through its five tracks. It’s a strong and surprising record because, while garnished with an array of vintage sounds (and, presumably, influences), it’s actually a markedly contemporary sounding effort. And, probably most importantly, it should easily sate the appetite of the band’s ever increasing fan base.

The disc opens with “Moon Love,” an amorously oriented song whose primary conceit links geography to psyche. It includes some charming metaphors — the mind as a sea and thoughts as plankton in that sea, for example — that milk some creative mileage out of a topic that would feel more worn in other hands. Like subsequent tracks, “Moon Love” also shows off the band’s tendency to pair quirky lyrics, warbling vocals, and instrumental sincerity in a way reminiscent, at its best moments, of Devendra Banhart.

The second track, “Chameleon,” shares this approach, beginning with a harmonized vocal intro and blusey, classic-rock-esque guitars. It’s a somewhat heavier tune than “Moon Love,” but refreshingly never becomes dark or dismal.

By staying upbeat, “Chameleon” exemplifies what puts The Archer’s Apple a head above its competition: the band takes an ultimately happy — even peppy — approach to folk longing and nostalgia. That’s also what makes the album sound so modern. Between the punchy percussion and the amalgam of influences the band draws from, Suburban Ocean sounds sort of like a folk-ish version of Vampire Weekend performing songs co-written by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez — and I can’t think of another band out there, local or otherwise, that fits that description.

“Standing in Deserts,” the EP’s third track, shows off the band’s Americana influences with some sparkling finger picking, organ, and more strong vocals. It also has contemporary-sounding guitar parts, including some almost-indie riffs and what sounds to me like an Ebow near the end (though I can’t be sure about that).

It’s followed by “Once,” which, maybe because it loosely tells the story from which the band derives its name, most poignantly evoked a The Archer’s Apple live show for me. The song also included a relatively long instrumental build-up that — unlike those attempted by other bands — isn’t pointless, self-indulgent jamming. On the contrary, it actually felt like an appropriate effort to extend and complete the emotional arc of the song.

The final track, “Bang Bang,” is a beating, quasi-epic epitaph that feels, at times, like an embryonic version of Simon and Garfunkle. It includes some of the most yearning moments of the EP and I probably listened to it the most (though picking out a “favorite” from the collection is difficult because all the songs are pretty strong). Ultimately, then, “Bang Bang” is a satisfying conclusion to an album that draws on folk, Americana, greaser vintage, and a host of other influences to produce something that should leave listeners bobbing in the high tides of a surprisingly pleasant Suburban Ocean.

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