Music Review: “15 Sunrise” by Calico Blue

Amherst-based psychedelic dream-pop and surf-blues infused band Calico Blue released its second album early this month, 15 Sunrise, which presents songs that could be best described as meditations on life. They confront the ghosts that live in the corridors of the mind: regret, heartbreak, and solitude. But in the darkness of the lyrics there is hidden light, which builds to bring about a dawning, as the title suggests.

Vocalist Sarah Addi croons across the album; punctuating the songs with sonorous and impactful low notes, gracefully articulated at all times, while guitarist Eli Ayres lays down riffs and chord changes that reverberate and warble, blending surf rock and blues with an Arcade Fire-esque precision. The guitar lines stand out while also balancing the ebb and flow of the entire performance.

The rhythm section, which is composed of John Bergin on bass and Billy Hickey on percussion, is tight and responsive to the interplay between all the members of the group and brings a jazzy feel to this genre-blending band.

Some of the highlights on the nine-song record include “Kites,” which features soaring group vocals with a beat that could easily serve as the anthem for 20-somethings joyously dancing at a groovy basement show, and “Ghost — a slow creeping ballad, which explodes at the chorus to reveal a moment of epiphany, “We were storming the gates/ I seem to remember/ All the marks they remain and I/ Tried to wash it away/ I seem to remember/ All the living in pain forgot.”

Another song, “Velvet,” discusses the futility of basing life on material desires while the speaker muses about their own isolation, “You spend your life making money/ You spend your life thinking it’s funny/But how could I control myself when I could tell you why/ When all the other kids had fun that I just stayed inside/Keep your head down.” 

“Ace” is a song where the band’s blues influences combine with an experimental approach. Ayres plays a blistering distorted guitar solo that reaches high note peaks before morphing into quick melodic phrases. The guitar solo transitions perfectly into the final pre-chorus as the song builds to an apex and then slowly comes back down again. 

During the coda, Addi repeats the question, “Who put the ace in the kitchen?”, while Ayres plays dreamy harp-like notes; Bergin creates bass lines that start off simple and then spiral into complexity; and Hickey gently lays down a jazzy groove. 

The album comes to a close at the end of “Ace” with a psychedelic avant-garde hurricane of manic energy that is both menacing and captivating. The rhythm section bursts into beautifully controlled chaos while Addi bellows a long-tone that fades into the growing abyss of sound. 

Calico Blue’s second work is reminiscent of dream-pop singer Julee Cruise, famous for her contributions to David Lynch’s 1990 cult TV classic Twin Peaks, and 1980s alternative rockers such as Galaxie 500 and Mazzy Star, but the band combines elements from surf, psychedelia, and blues to bring its own unique vision to forefront. ​

Above all, there is a sense of mystery to this album that encourages listeners to dig deeper and take another listen. 

To purchase or listen to 15 Sunrise visit Calico Blue’s bandcamp page at http://www.calicoblue.bandcamp.com/album.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com.

Author: Chris Goudreau

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