Sunjacket, 2016

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Chicago-based Sunjacket cannot be easily filed under any particular genre of music. But one of the best ways to describe them is that they intelligently and thoughtfully combine electronic and rock music. Now, there have been albums that have been similar to this disc, like Elemental by Tears For Fears and more notably, the initial works by fellow Illinoisans National Skyline.

Although the words “intelligent” and “thoughtful” – something that is best reserved to describe public radio, for instance – aren’t the best way to describe rock music, they are certainly true in the case of the aforesaid bands/albums, where the music seems very methodical and carefully crafted. Every guitar string strummed and every keyboard note played have been well thought out, and the production is meticulous. The music is unpredictable (which is why it is so damn interesting), but at the same time, the band seems to always have things under control. The musicians are almost like scientists, making something totally cool in a totally unassuming fashion; my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mantra is all of this.

It is hard to dislike this album as long as you are open to something different, because even in its unconventionality, it is still very accessible: the vocals are warm and inviting, and the music is beautiful and calming. This is the type of album that one can relax to.

The opening track “Grandstanders” is sort of proggy, bathed in retro synths, with backing vocals that give it an angelic appeal. The ensuing “Creepy” is the only fast song on this album. It is a foot-tapping indiepop number with some real cool synthesizer sounds.

“Dissolve It” has a rather trip hop vibe with its hip hop-like beats. A saxophone solo unpredictably emerges out of nowhere towards the end of the song, which is pretty neat. “Habit” is meditative, minimal, and soulful. “Tongue” is a strange, beautiful, and other-worldly instrumental; its dissonant sound that can be best described as a clash of the synthesizer and the saxophone in an apocalyptic battle.

“No One’s Around You,” “Not Enough,” and “Someone Else” are quite different, but are also quite the same in terms of how meditative and serene they all are. “Alligator” is one of the most accessible cuts on this album, featuring a catchy chorus. It starts off silent and surreal, but builds up to an explosive end consisting of a noisy but melodic guitar solo.

Mantra ends with the title song, which has very little instrumentation except for softly played creaky pianos and a weird droning machine sound in the backdrop, with vocals that sing like a hymn.

Throughout the album, Sunjacket throws one delightful surprise after another. The songs are anything but ordinary or formulaic. This disc feels like it wants to embrace any listener without the slightest sense of pretension, which is rather amazing. Mantra is an amazing debut by an amazing band.

Rating: A

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© 2017 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sunjacket, and is used for informational purposes only.