The Ruby Suns, 'Sea Lion' (Sub Pop)

6
Sea Lion
Critical Mass
Label: Sub Pop

by Shannon Zimmerman

The Ruby Suns' ringleader, Ryan McPhun, is an expat in more ways than one. Not only did the guy ditch California for New Zealand, he's also shaken off the shackles of traditional songwriting: Sea Lion's ten genre-spanning tracks run from percolating synth pop ("Morning Sun") to crunchy granola sing-alongs ("Adventure Tour") to ramshackle Brian Wilson tributes ("There Are Birds"). McPhun's eclecticism sometimes can eclipse the tunes -- "It's Mwangi in Front of Me" features more found sounds than hooks -- but he's a campfire folkie at heart. For all its iconoclastic ambition, Sea Lion is a low-key charmer.

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