Sun Organ sound like summer's last gasp on People in the Distance in the Dark - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Sun Organ | photo by Jersey Boy Photo | via Sun Organ’s Facebook

Following up last year’s Wooden Brain, the Philly-based Sun Organ return from the sludge with People in the Distance in the Dark, their second full-length in two years. What began as the solo output of guitarist/vocalist Tim Jordan has since evolved into a five-piece live band, and while the bulk of the performances on the album are still handled by Jordan, the band is featured prominently throughout. On Wooden Brain, the project showcased a melodic blend of indie-punk, grunge, and psychedelia. All of that still features prominently this time around on People, but with a great dynamic range and a willingness to explore new stylistic territory, itprovides just enough variation to feel fresh.

The band label themselves as “dream punk” on their Facebook page, which may sound like a strange description until you hear them. Where those two words would usually be at odds with one another, Sun Organ marry them by combining fuzzed-out, mid-tempo instrumentation with Jordan’s sleepy vocals. This is on display from the start with opener and highlight “Rocky Mountains High.” Atop its down-stroked rhythm section and squealing leads, Jordan radiates youthful cheekiness as he preens “I’m a kid / I’m going where the party is.” His delivery brings to mind Nathan Williams of Wavves, a band whose earlier output is also reflected in People’s brittle, noisy production. In the best way possible, the album sounds like it was left outside on a hot summer day, drowned in the neighborhood pool, then fished out to bake in the sun all over again.

While Sun Organ certainly excites on scorching tracks like “Terror Place,” “Blood in the House II” and “Couple of Years,” some of People’s best moments come when the band retreats to the shade. On “Decay,” power chords and pounding drums are swapped for gentle, acoustic strumming and the soft click of a drum machine. On the gorgeous “Woe 2,” delicate arpeggios drift across the peaceful sounds of nature. These tracks serve as a necessary counterpoint to the rest of the album, providing an emotional sensitivity that occasionally gets lost in the haze and distortion. Tellingly, though, the album ends with a cover by the godfather of emo himself, Roy Orbison.

Sun Organ hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, but they didn’t have to make an album that’s solid and entertaining from start to finish. People takes that wheel, attaches it to a beat-up SUV, then rides it off into the sunset. Luckily for you, said SUV will be making a stop at DIY Venue The Overlook Hotel next Tuesday, where the band will open for Caffeine, Watcher, and Sallow. More information on this all ages show can be found here.

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