Review: Sea Lions - "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask

Sea Lions - Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid To Ask
(2011 Slumberland)
 I'm pretty surprised that this charming little twee-pop gem has escaped me for so long, (it came out last November) but now that I've found this holy grail of all that is reverb laden, I just have to write about it. This debut album by Sea Lions, a 5-piece act from Oxnard, California, runs 15 tracks in just under 30 minutes. The band's sound is accented by its guitar harmonies, in which frontman Adrian Pillado's percussive strumming lays a foundation for bandmate Matthew Uango's pounding waves of twangy riffs. These twin guitar attacks have an element of fragility to them, almost as if they were held together by duct tape and Elmer's glue instead of skittery drums and skilfully played bass.

Not only do Sea Lions have the right style to break into an 80s obsessed indie-rock scene, they also have the capability to spread catchy, yet substantial tracks throughout the entire LP. "Grown Up" tells the most compelling story. The song is about Pillado's monotonous existence and his attempts to recapture his youth, only to realize that it's impossible to go back. Perhaps he's seen the Twilight Zone episode "Walking Distance"? Of course, the lyrics won't matter unless the music holds up and hold up it does! It starts with a brief toy piano intro leading into breezy Real Estate-esque tune. The vocals really make the song, though. Pillado deep monotone voice could easily be mistaken for that of Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson, further establishing the band's roots in the 80s lo-fi scene. His voice is backed by the surprisingly gorgeous oohs and aahs of bassist Kyle Zufolo, making this the album's standout track.

 Despite the normally hyper, Saturday morning cartoon paced energy that keeps this album chugging along, Sea Lions aren't afraid to slow things down a bit, especially on "My Girl" and "Look" which belong in the malt shop jukeboxes of the past. Other standouts include the overly cute "A Cloud" and the melancholy "I Should Be Sleeping". The album ends with the instrumental "A Song For Your Smile", a raucous, high energy punk track. 

 The overall feel of Everything... is actually quite melancholy, especially when it comes to the lyrics. It seems  that Pillado aims to create 30 minutes of pure escapism. The short instrumental intro seems to act as a portal into a somewhat idealized world that doesn't exactly fit perfectly into any sort of time period. This world can only be referred to as "simpler times". Nostalgia has never been so powerful.

Listen to "Grown Up" below.