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Sunset Valley
Goldbank 78 Stack
In Music We Trust Records

Nice to see another record with a hidden meaning in the title. I'm reminded of 60's albums such as the Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (as a Brit with a pipe-smoking pop I knew this was a brand of tobacco, but non-initiates could be forgiven for thinking it referred to a mental health problem), or Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland (named for NYC's Electric Lady Studios where it was recorded, rather than being a reference to the bevy of naked ladies on the original cover). I think Goldbank 78 Stack refers to a particular brand of amp, but who knows ....

Sunset Valley is a trio from Portland, OR - engaging front man Herman Jolly, Eric Furlong and Jonathan Drews. They've flown under my radar up to now, but I'm all the poorer for it, this being the band's fourth release.

The sun-bleached cover photo is evocative of 60s California, but on closer inspection turns out to be a figure wrapped from head to toe in vehicle license plates. I detect a 60s influence in the music herein too, with opening track "GB78S" recalling the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" in its spiralling, descending guitar riffs. This is probably my favourite song on the album; the strong tune is backed up by insistent drums and bass and an intense, distorted vocal.

The other tracks are consistently strong space-power-pop, too, ranging from slow burners like "Moss" and "Ancient Mome" to the fast-strummed, Buzzcocky "Blow Up". Jolly manages to emulate Frank Black's quirkiness while also keeping the Large One's great melodic sense - no mean achievement. The album finishes off with two of its strongest tracks: the brooding "Pet Your Head", which sounds like some lost classic by the much-missed Dream Syndicate, and "Gaze My Shoes", which isn't at all shoegazy, sounding more like the jangly indiepop of Death Cab and their ilk.

This is a good, solid album - it doesn't quite make this year's top 10 (especially as it originally came out last year - I'm as topical as ever !), but definitely makes me want to dig up those first three albums.

-Gareth Bowles

Track listing:
1. g.b.78.s.
2. Grubby Cartoon Hands
3. Pull the Trig
4. Candy Stairs
5. Blow Up
6. Moss
7. Mr. Extreme Jeans
8. Ancient Mome
9. I'm a Bull
10. Deadhorse Waterloo
11. Pet Your Head
12. Gaze My Shoes

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