The time is ripe for new kings of alternative music to be born. With the controlling forces of the music industry resurrecting and latching onto revered trailblazers (The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Gang of Four), and few new heavyweights emerging despite a veritable avalanche of hype and press coverage (TV on the Radio, Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!) the valid question becomes: what’s more important, explosive popularity or enduring quality? New York’s The Big Sleep might be one such new king. Their sophomore release Sleep Forever is a triumph, as rewarding as it is replayable.
The trio of Danny Barria, Sonya Balchandani and Gabe Rhodes fill out their distinct blend of shoegaze, experimental noise and alternative rock, punching the riffs out harder and grooving more patiently. On “Slow Race” and “Undying Love” Barria and Balchandani build up enthusiasm, connecting each guitar and bass riff end-to-end until the songs crescendo with gleeful satisfaction. It’s chemistry on par with road-tested groups that can all but assemble songs on the spot, anticipating their band mates’ next moves.
“Bad Blood” and “Chorus of Guitars” have Balchandani singing lead vocals, calmly setting the stage for a mental outro guitar solo on the former and cementing soothing ambience amidst pianos and drum machines on the latter. In a new development since the group’s debut Son of the Tiger, Barria sings lead on “Pinkies” and “Little Sister,” dreamily fading in, a ghostlike image against a vibrant backdrop.
Although the group excels on instrumental such as the nail-biting “The Big Guns” and the ultra-textured “Organs,” the killer cut here is the title-track finale “Sleep Forever.” Based on a solemn, four-note organ melody and ascending power chords, Barria cuts through the storm with a knockout first blowâ€šÃ„Ã®”We’ve got our work cut out for us / There’s no place left for us to go”â€šÃ„Ã®until the music subsides leaving only the organ behind. It’s a tour de force simultaneously implying courage, persistence and success, regardless of adversity. And with any luck, it just might be the opening shot signaling a long career of enduring quality.