By Joe Vena
New Orleans’ Sun Hotel is a band that, to my knowledge, is relatively unknown in the grand scheme of music. This fact blows my mind because, simply and vulgarly put, they’re fucking incredible. I first found out about Sun Hotel after I was referred to their previous work, a brilliant record called “Team Spirit”. The four-song EP was not only awesome musically and lyrically, but also extraordinarily original, combining a 90’s noisy indie rock sound with a bluesy southern-fried gospel rock hybrid. Moreover, “Team Spirit” was a concept record, telling a heartbreaking story of love lost through different stages of a relationship, including dating, marriage, and finally divorce.
I still spin that record on a weekly basis, and I often wondered when these talented dudes were going to get picked up by a label and put out a full length. Although they’re still, surprisingly, unsigned, Sun Hotel has offered up even more of their brand of “post gospel” that made me fall in love with them in their self-released full-length, “Coast”. The band has seemed to get even more experimental with their sound, adding more ambience and gospel-influenced vocal melodies, but this only adds to the excellence. This time around, there doesn’t seem to be any specific concept, but the lyrics are just as remarkable.
“Coast” opens up with “Palms,” a vivacious, slow-moving buildup to a wall of sound that makes use of multiple vocal melodies, a calling card of Sun Hotel’s style. The song is a loud and epic introduction to the album, which then moves seamlessly into “Oikos”, a markedly calmer and more ambient song. However, that doesn’t stop the band from making great use of their signature switches between loud and soft dynamics. The vocal melodies are once again terrific here, and as pronounced as Sun Hotel’s instrumental talent is, the songs really center themselves on them. Soft, whispered vocals mutate into shouted declarations as dynamics shift, especially towards the middle of the song, where “God keeps laughing at my plan, so I laugh back at him,” is passionately professed.
Where songs like this display their noise-rock stimulus, songs like “Egyptian Cotton” and “Loose Woman” exemplify the southern swagger side of things. Twangy folk-rock guitar riffs and words sung-shouted in a down-home drawl get the toes tapping. This dualism is displayed in all songs as it is always meshed together flawlessly, but each song clearly leans more in either direction. Both ways work terrifically, though, and whether the members of Sun Hotel are smashing jangly chords in an indie rock passion fit, or bending notes in a riff-driven bop, their versatility is displayed and it just fucking rules.
At this point, I honestly can’t believe this band isn’t signed yet, but if anything, “Coast” will get them the attention they deserve. In a genre where many bands are either playing annoyingly ironic dance punk or annoyingly ironic 50’s style surf rock, Sun Hotel is actually bringing fresh new ideas to the table, executed in a style that will blow any others who will surely try to emulate them out of the water. It’s time originality is recognized in indie rock, rather than throwbacks to dead varieties of music rehashed, and Sun Hotel just might be the band to lead the way.