On its debut The Little Pacific, Greater California showed promise by blending a sound equal parts R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and XTC’s Skylarking. Now, for its sophomore release, the band has acquired a Wurlitzer Electric Piano and decided to build an album around it.
Somber Wurlitzer was recorded exclusively between the hours of Midnight and 5:00 a.m., but the catch is that these nocturnal sessions—from this generally gloomy-doomy, high-minded outfit—have resulted in a perfectly mood-appropriate warm-weather album. “Missing Summer,” “Looking In” and “May Day” are lush, densely layered slices of pop that awaken the senses like fresh earth and blue skies. An the Wurlitzer—with its clear and jubilant sound—becomes a living, breathing entity here, turning an album of would-be dirges into an Andy Partridge wet dream. Even on slower tunes like “The Appearing” and the title track, it adds clarity to the fog—just enough to keep the record from being overbearingly dense.
On Somber Wurlitzer, Greater California delivers with strong songcraft and mastery of divergent styles and moods, particularly on tunes like “Portuguese Hall” and the guitar-driven “In Scarlet.” When you’re curled up on a beach blanket this summer, pop this disc into your boom box, and get ready to float dreamily off into the ether.