Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

Debut from Portland’s Sunset Hearts shows a bright past, but an unsure future

Posted on September 25, 2011 in Album Reviews
By Kevin Steeves

Self-Released/Sunset Hearts

There is nothing more cyclical than pop culture trends. But far too often, what made the original so phenomenal is lost in transition the second time around because of new advances in technology, and attempts to fuse new trends with the old becoming obvious and uninspired. The ’80s nostalgia trip has been going on for so long with countless VH1 pop culture retrospectives and a resurgence of new wave-inspired music acts, it’s difficult to imagine anything new being added to the already tired trend.

This is why “Haunted Cloud,” the debut album by Portland natives Sunset Hearts, is such a breath of fresh air to the already exploited history of new wave. Casey McCurry and company aren’t trying anything new. They don’t attempt to fuse punk sensibilities with Tears for Fears sheen; they don’t add soaring post-rock theatrics to a three minute pop song. Instead, “Haunted Cloud” strives at being as true to their source material as possible and in the process, create one of Portland’s most confident and well-defined albums in recent years.

The brooding dance floor-ready “Butterfly Blood” is a defining example of what makes Sunset Hearts debut album so successful. With unwavering conviction, McCurry on lead vocals evokes new wave godfathers New Order’s alluring romanticism: “We tried to talk about her problems/She said I know, I can feel my life bleeding out from my mouth.”

The power of Sunset Hearts rests in its lofty eight member size, with each member fulfilling their individual roles without reservation, rarely overstepping their boundaries or letting individual egos get in the way. This is even more impressive considering the individual musical lineage that each member brings to the collective, with members coming from Portland acts like Huak, Hi Tiger and Marie Stella. This flawless cohesiveness comes together best on tracks like “Animal Bones,” which has the octet staying within the boundaries of what Sunset Hearts has set out to be: a great pop band. “That night we danced in floodlights/As the water crested high/I can’t remember a thing that wouldn’t make you cry.” It’s unassuming; it’s restrained; it’s filled with synth hooks – but above all it’s just plain catchy.

The greatest success of Sunset Hearts and “Haunted Cloud” might also be it’s biggest curse. For a collective so clearly rooted in a new wave pedigree, it’s difficult to see the group go in any other direction or progress any further without abandoning what made it so successful.

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