Even with the $4/gallon gas and the high price of coffee and beer, 2008 is turning out to be a pretty good year. Only a couple of months after Fleet Foxes released their brilliant self-titled debut on Sub Pop Records, another band in the post-Olivia Tremor Control line has come out with an album of terrific experimental psychedelic folk pop. Apollo Sunshine's third album, Shall Noise Upon, available now on vinyl and digital download, and out next month on CD, is by far the band's best yet (and that's saying something after their excellent 2005 self-titled album). Alternatively rockin' ("666 - The Coming of the New World Government," "Brotherhood of Death") and dreamy ("Breeze," "We Are Born When We Die”), full of reverb and wild instrumentation, and not at all the kind of overly technical (read: unlistenable) music you would expect from three Berkeley grads, Shall Noise Upon sounds like a completely awesome mix between Of Montreal and the Fruit Bats (and rivals any album either of those bands have put out).
Apollo Sunshine is Jesse Gallagher on keyboards/bass/vocals, Sam Cohen on guitar, and Jeremy Black on drums. And though their previous two albums have been well received both critically and commercially (they were featured in this 2005 Rolling Stone article on up-and-coming bands and have toured with the likes of Built to Spill and The Walkmen), Shall Noise Upon is a breakthrough. Recorded in the Catskill Mountains, and expertly produced by Quentin Stoltzfus, formerly of Mazarin, Shall Noise Upon, like The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's, adds up to something wonderfully beautiful even on the first listen. Here it's a hippie-ish celebration of nature and love—“Love in a world of 'dangers'—real and false," as the band puts it—but always with a certain chaotic frenzy, both musically and lyrically. Songs like "666 - The Coming of the New World Government," with their noisy guitar and synth solos, threaten to fall apart again and again, but always return to their pop structures. Even the short songs, "Shall Noise Upon," "Wolf Frog White," and "Coyote Hearing," which together total less than a minute, are fun and raucous and don't come off as throwaways. And when the style turns to Latin samba ("Remember") or groove-funk ("The Funky Chamberlain"), for example, it all fits right in.
Not to overdo the praise, but Shall Noise Upon is musical artistry at its finest, from a band full of endless talent and frenetic energy. For now, you can preview the album on JamBase, or watch the video for "Breeze." And if you're in Massachusetts this weekend, you can see them in Wellfleet (8th and 9th) and Boston (11th). If the video below is anything to go by, their live shows are just as incredible as their albums (I've heard that frontman Jesse Gallagher has been known to play bass with one hand and keyboards with the other while singing). When it comes to album of the year, Fleet Foxes set the bar pretty high back in June, but Apollo Sunshine just set it higher.