EP REVIEW: Sealions – ‘Number One Lover’

Sealions - Number One Lover

SEALIONS
Number One Lover
[Deer Bear Wolf, 2014]

★★★½☆

Purchase This Album:
Deer Bear Wolf

If there was a local song that earned perfect summer single status this year, it was “Honey,” the soaring lead track from Sealions’ sophomore EP, Number One Lover. Any adjective that you could legitimately throw at it — propulsive, anthemic, infectious, exuberant — all told the same story: this was a whirring rush of a song that buried its hooks into you and left you feeling ecstatic. When we talk about Sealions as a synth-pop band, this is what we are referring to — a bit of backwards-looking ’80s revivalism, triumphant dance grooves, catchy as all get out.

But right as “Honey” heads to its conclusion you hear it. It’s only lasts for a few seconds but it’s the sort of differentiating sound that makes you pause and take notice. It’s not that the momentary swell of shoegazey guitar is out of step with the rest of the song; it works well in context, and basically just adds an extra exclamation point to an already exhilarating piece of music. But it does hint at the left turn that’s to come, revealing, essentially, that given the right mood Sealions are capable of cranking out some damn fine full-throttle guitar rock.

It all starts with “Thieves,” a warm, sun-splashed number that spends its first two or so minutes floating gently across your speakers while frontman Jason Travis weaves an enveloping blanket of soft caress vocals. It’s enchanting stuff, but certainly not the fist-pumping blaze of noise I just promised you. But then comes the guitars. At first it’s just a simple churning guitar lead, but as it continues to build and thrust its way forward, it becomes more fiery and assertive. It never quite reaches a fever pitch, but that jolt of tension and vigor feels crucial, turning what is admittedly a very good song into an excellent one.

All this is not to say that you should be turning to Sealions for your dose of hammering riffs. Far from it. But it’s impossible to deny there are times — for instance, on album highlight “Luster” — when the band sounds more monstrous that you’d ever think they could. It’s the most immediate and gripping track on the record, mostly because the chorus is just so damn killer and the way it catapults into the ensuing guitar lead is exhilarating.

But the problem with unleashing so much electric energy at the center of their EP is that when they retreat back to their mid-tempo pop, it feels flat and underwhelming. “Diamonds,” for lack of a better phrase, is a bit of a slog that disrupts the EP’s otherwise kinetic flow. Closing track “Setting Suns” does its best to snap the record back into course, but the rote dance grooves and repetitive rhythms feel entirely too complacent for a band that was firing on all cylinders just a few minutes before. According to Travis, it’s the most personal track on the record, a song written about his one true love, so it’s also disappointing to hear him settling for such trifling lines as “If you were night, I’d be day / If you were here, I would stay / Just to be with you for hours.” Nobody is expecting the man to be Matt Berninger or anything, but he’s certainly shown that he’s capable of more incisive lyrics that what he delivers here.

All in all, Number One Lover is a solid but uneven record that starts off as a lively dance party and ends with everyone going home a little sullen and bored. Still, it’s important to note that Sealions have proven themselves to be bolder and more assertive than they were on their debut, Strange Veins, and there’s certainly room for further growth. Let’s all hope the band continues to press forward because when they put it all together the results can be positively euphoric.

More Info:
Web: www.sealionsmusic.com
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SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/sealions
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