The New Speed (Sugar Free Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Fronted by Herman Jolly, Sunset Valley is the one of the many bands in Portland, Oregon that has the potential and power to take themselves to the top. Originally a three-piece, they have now grown to a five-piece. On their debut album, THE NEW SPEED, they clearly display their knack for catchy hooks and quirky lyrics that jump around, but still give off a sense of understanding to the listener. Eleven tracks, they jump between soft pop melodies and power-pop bouncers.
"Skylab Love Scene" combines energy and a catchy hook right from the beginning. After a quick "ding-ding" guitar intro, the vocals take charge. Accompanied by some melodic guitars, pounding drums, and a solid bass, the music quickly takes charge of your attention. From there they slip a few more hooks under your nose, before they quickly dive into the chorus and throw even more at you. Then reverting back to the verses, they keep the tempo intense and the melodies all around. Turning the notch down a bit, they give off the impression that the song is going to end very soft, before they slowly get the tempo back up and close everything off. "Blanketville" continues where "Skylab Love Scene" left off, once again making sure your ears are glued to the speakers. A dancing bass line makes you shake your body, while the guitar and drums work together to get you bouncing and tapping your feet. You just can't help but want to dance with this number. But then comes the chorus, which quickly will turn you off from the song for a bit. Distorting and playing with the vocals, the chorus sounds like a man dying while trying to spit out his last words. But after a few listens, this will work in the songs favor. You'll keep coming back wondering, "why does this annoy me so much?" After a few listens, it'll grow on you and you'll find yourself singing along. From then on, you'll fall madly in love with the song and quickly point it out as one of your favorites on the disc. "Shanghai Shelly" brings more infectious power-pop your way. Starting off soft, they soon dive into the power that drives the song. Once this hits, you'll be putty in their hands. Brightly melodic, there is only one thing to do...sing along with them. On "Met My Mako" the band turns everything down a bit, and keeps the song at a constant, medium pace. They do throw in some loud guitars near the middle of the song and try to pick up the tempo, but they merely turn up the volume while still keeping the song at the same repetitive pace it was at all along. For the first time on this album, the band shows sings of weakness. Very one sided, the only thing that is going for this song is the lyrics and the vocals. And even the lyrics are average. A decent song that mixes well with the others and plays through nicely, on it's own it just doesn't stand a chance. "Red Room Rocket Ride" tries to capture the addictive tendencies and energy that the first half of the disc has, but fails...to an extent. It's still a highly energetic and catchy number, it just can't pull off the hooks or sing-along friendly-ness of some of their other stuff. But don't fear, they close off the CD with "California Now," a track that shows their ability to be a great band when playing lighter power-pop, as well as Herman Jolly's lyrical ability. One of the best all-around tracks on the disc, it truly ends everything nicely.
The first time I popped this disc in, I thought it was decent. But for some reason, I just kept coming back for more. Herman Jolly has a great voice, and it mixes wonderfully with the music. The rhythm section is solid, and the hooks are plentiful. All the components were there, so why it didn't click with me immediately is beyond me. But when it did click, I was hooked. I listened to the disc many times, and although some tracks didn't hit me as hard as others, overall this is a very promising band and a very solid album. I'll give it an A-.
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