To cut right to the chase: Sleepy Sun is a very artful imitation. The band's acid-washed contortions of Sabbath- and Zeppelin-era blues-rock as interpreted through a post-punk lens are consistently engaging. Combined with some well-timed bursts of wah-wah guitar, the textural variety of their music almost makes up for the fact that, by and large, Sleepy Sun bring less to the table than their similarly-minded Santa Cruz neighbors, Comets on Fire.
I've always had a soft-spot for stoner rock. Since the early aughts, when the whole heavy metal scene seemed to split between the twin polarities of Linkin Park or Lamb of God, stoner rock has remained a consistent middle ground where I could enjoy the heftiness that originally drew me to metal while avoiding the bludgeoning monotony of the extreme bands or the sub-LiveJournal whimperings of their commercial counterparts. Embrace is better than a lot of stoner rock albums that I've heard. Sleepy Sun bring with them an openness to experimentation and a certain degree of technical prowess that set them apart from the host of Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer imitators. Unfortunately, the kind of searing blues riffage that makes up the album's backbone is a little too reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' early work, minus the galvanizing presence of a front man/woman like Karen O.
Embrace's most readily accessible songs are the ones that lean most heavily upon their influences: “Sleepy Son” and “White Dove.” Both songs are epic in length and hinge on slow, heavy, soulful riffs. Dig a little bit deeper, however, and you'll find some equally rewarding tracks, like the delightfully weird “Red / Black,” which begins with echo-y chanting and ends with a blistering bass solo. Another left-field gem comes from the Gospel-inflected pop of “Lord.” These latter songs hint at an emerging voice of some promise and originality.
Taken as a whole, Embrace is an enjoyable album. It's predictable in places, at times even a little cliché, but it's executed competently enough that these qualities are forgivable. All-in-all, not bad for a first album. Let us hope future releases find the band kicking off the training wheels and learning to ride on their own momentum.
1. New Age
3. Red / Black
4. Sleepy Son
5. Golden Artifact
6. White Dove
7. Snow Goddess
8. Duet with the Northern Sky