(Listen while you read!)
It feels almost ridiculous to use the word “electronic” as a genre descriptor when talking about music in 2013. In many cases, the term feels unnecessary and antiquated. With the exception of the coolest, most puritanical analog-fetishists out there, much of the modern musical landscape tends to be populated by artists who embrace digital technologies, drum machines, synths, samplers and other electrogadgets and doo-dads (if not just straight-up “laptop musicians”). While rock and roll sounds of the hairiest variety still reign supreme in Indiana’s underground music scene, digitally-minded badasses like Sunset Pig (along with their spiritual kin The Red Falcon Projects) stand apart both for their sonic differences and their affinity for a distinctly “electronic” set of traditions to explore and challenge.
On their new EP, Everything is Fake, Sunset Pig embrace a much poppier sound than on previous releases, while still maintaining their masterful grasp of synth/dance music conventions. At just over 20 minutes, these five songs flash by in a blurry haze of hip hop-influenced production, R&B smoothness, and enough bubbly sci-fi keyboard sounds to keep your inner music geek happy for weeks on end.
I’ve considered myself a Sunset Pig fan since the first time I heard their outstanding debut, 2012’s Please No Head Trauma!, a refreshing, neon-hued slab of synthy, psychedelic electronica that instantly stood out as one of the best Indiana albums of the year. Songs like “Street Sweat” and “Trending” offer abundant hooks, magnificent melodies, and infinite replay potential, and Please No Head Trauma! still hits the spot when I’m looking for some effervescent, sunshiny jams of the electronic variety.
Sunset Pig then quietly released another full-length, Euclid, in December ’12, which found them playing with an icier palate and finer textures, blending their pop tendencies with more pronounced techno, house, and ambient influences. Considering that Euclid was composed and recorded in a rather short window of time, its triumphs are even more pronounced: it’s a unique statement that speaks to the band’s high standards for sonic quality and extreme attention to detail. Sunset Pig are from Vincennes, Indiana, but their knack for blissed-out electronic pop sounds and high fidelity makes them sound like they could be from anywhere. That they are making such immediate and beautiful sounds in the heart of the Midwest makes their career even more exciting to watch.
Everything Is Fake has been highly anticipated by Sunset Pig fans, not just due to their solid reputation, but also thanks to a campaign of teaser videos leading up to the release of the EP. Each video provided a few mouthwatering seconds of new Sunset Pig music paired with fitting visuals. Needless to say, I was excited about the release of the album last month (thanks in part to that rather maddening video campaign), and as I’ve had a few weeks to digest it, I can say with confidence that Everything Is Fake is all I had hoped for and more.
The album opens with the sounds of a casino, shimmering like hard candy in a golden bowl, morphing seamlessly into the propulsive beat of the title track. By the time the gorgeous, reverb-soaked female vocals enter the song, you already know you’re in for something special. “Everything is Fake” glides along with plasticine keyboard lines and wistful lyrics about time’s slippery passage and the world’s illusory nature. It’s definitely a high point of the EP, but after several listens, you’re bound to agree that this brief collection of songs offers very little in the way of low points.
“I Go Numb (feat. Will Foraker)” is a sleek and funky mid-tempo funk/R&B banger, like Dam Funk meets R. Kelly in a back alley at 3 AM while a club down the street blasts old school Daft Punk. As on the title track, the vocals are a definite strong point, but the music is as compelling as anything else in Sunset Pig’s short-but-strong catalog. Syrupy keyboard strings never sounded so good, and when the Sunset Pig boys start fucking with glitchy computer effects, “I Go Numb” reaches orgasmic heights.
Everything is Fake continues to pummel with catchiness and dance-worthy beats on “Want,” a stuttering, soulful track with a classic vocal melody and an unforgettable beat change-up shortly after the three-minute mark. It also happens to have a pretty amazing youtube video. “Drowned in Sound” and “Breezy” close the EP with heavier doses of drowsy sweetness and laid back atmosphere, and both songs stand up remarkably well on repeated listens. The album always leaves you wanting more, and as you explore, you’ll find all kinds of hidden corners of pop magic, the combined effect of which makes Everything Is Fake transcend the tag “electronic” and be more appropriately filed under “great music.”
In short, Everything Is Fake is impressive from start to finish, and if there’s anything right at all in underground music’s karmic universe, it is the type of album that should propel Sunset Pig to a much larger stage. Besides, even if they remain a somewhat obscure bedroom project known mostly in Indiana, we are fortunate to have their recordings, and they deserve to be heard, enjoyed, and treasured for years to come.