CD Napa Asylum (CD 7010542),
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Napa Asylum

  • 1. Jolly
    2. Eat Happy
    3. Cement Surfboard
    4. Country Medicine
    5. Do You Want to Give $$?
    6. Saint Peter Writes His Book
    7. Zeppo Epp
    8. Trip Train
    9. Ball of Fame
    10. Ranger
    11. My My Lai
    12. Wake Up, It's Over
    13. Meter Man
    14. Occult Display
    15. Wasted at Church
    16. Turtle Soup
    17. First White Man to Touch California Soil, The
    18. Super Max Lament on the Way
    19. May Ltd
    20. Low Kid
    21. March of the Skies
    22. Nathan Livingston Maddox
  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 045526

  • Credits
    EngineerSic Alps

    Recording information: Baker Street (2008-2010); Bauer Mansion (2008-2010); The Mississippi Hotel (2008-2010).
    Unknown Contributor Roles: Noel von Harmonson; Mike Donovan; Matthew Hartman.
    The two-and-a-half-year gap between Sic Alps' 2008 album U.S. EZ and Napa Asylum was pretty sizable, especially considering how prolific the band had been up to that point. While Matt Hartman and Mike Donovan took some time to catch their breath, they signed to Drag City (which reissued A Long Way Around To A Shortcut in 2009) and became a trio, adding guitarist Noel Von Harmonson to the fold. Despite these changes, Sic Alps remain fundamentally themselves on Napa Asylum -- there is still lots and lots of noise, and it still sounds like they're singing to themselves more than for anyone else. However, this sprawling mosaic of 22 songs has more room for melody and nuance than any of their previous albums, and they divine many moods and sounds within their fuzz. "Cement Surfboard," "Ball of Fame," and "May Ltd" are fine examples of what happens when a poppy mood strikes the band; "Wake Up, It's Over" and "Super Max Lament on the Way" are wispy interludes; and "Zeppo Epp"'s guitar filigrees show Sic Alps are even capable of delicacy. Yet the nearly four-minute-long "Trip Train" shows the band's commitment to dense, unrelenting, old-school noise rock, and also serves as a reminder of why Sic Alps make perfect sense on Drag City: at different points on Napa Asylum, the band evokes venerable Drag City artists like Royal Trux, U.S. Maple, and early Pavement. The album's heart, however, belongs to the druggiest rock the `60s had to offer (it even ends with a backward recording!). "Meter Man" is a psychedelic pop nugget for feedback and piano, "The First White Man to Touch California Soil" gets heavy with shades of blues-rock, and "Ranger" is buoyed by booming acid rock drums. Even -- maybe especially -- quieter tracks like "Eat Happy" and "Country Medicine" have a decidedly psychedelic aftertaste, suggesting the kind of music Skip Spence might have made if he'd had a bedroom eight-track. Napa Asylum is probably Sic Alps' most immediate album, but it's still so sprawling that describing it as such is like trying to catch smoke. Regardless, its hazy summertime ease and organic flow make the time it takes to sink in well worthwhile. ~ Heather Phares

  • Critic Reviews
    Mojo (Publisher) (p.99) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "NAPA ASYLUM houses close-miked garage nuggets, hiss'n'static balladry and brittle sunshine-pop."
    Uncut (magazine) (p.96) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[The album] feels like a step-up in terms of songwriting, a cocksure blend of Dylan blues, Haight Ashbury psych and early Pavement."
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