Monocle: Outer Sunset
Hidden Shoal

Outer Sunset presents eleven polished samplings of radiant effervescence from New York-based quintet Monocle. As is often the case when a debut full-length documents a “coming out,” the band—founder Rich Bennett, guitarist Matt Filler, bassist Dan Shuman, drummer Max Goldman, vocalist Sunny Kim—makes its case with conviction and immediacy. The band isn't without influences: echoes of Stereolab and Broadcast invariably emerge in roller-coaster melodies that draw from classic pop, lounge, shoegaze, and New Wave. The aquatic organ and lounge-styled groove of “Road Sign” court that Stereolab association strongly, as do the jagged guitars and “spy movie” bass lines in “Wave Goodbye” (though the reference is banished from the mind when a cool bass line in the latter jumpstarts a chorus filled with showers of glockenspiels and ecstatic vocalizing).

The bossa-fueled pop of “Emmanuelle” opens the album euphorically with a stampeding cyclone of guitars, glockenspiels, and vocals. In “Gaspard,” Kim's heavenly voice rides a wave of squalling guitars, while a deep male vocal assumes the lead for the entrancing shoegaze lull of “We Slip.” A couple of instrumentals, “Allo Taxi” (a galloping instrumental of jangly guitars and swooning harmonies) and “Outer Sunset” (a distant cousin to “Space Oddity”), appear, and the band flirts with guitar freakout territory during the astral sonics of “Music of Space” (though soaring vocal melodies ensure the song still retains its breezy melodic character). All things considered, a gloriously entertaining and accomplished debut.

February 2008