The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion
Traveling is something everyone should experience, whether it’s to the other side of the world, or even just to the other side of the country. Not only does traveling give people a broader perspective of the world, but it also reveals a bit about themselves, such as their niche within society or their tastes in food, music, and recreation. Traveling results in culturing and such culture will spread throughout your opinions, preferences, and influences. Ryan McPhun, head of The Ruby Suns, is a traveler. Born in California, but now residing in New Zealand, McPhun has been around the world, from the heart of Africa to the soul of Europe. He is a cultured man, which is quite evident within his musical tastes and in a recent interview with Drowned in Sound, McPhun revealed his diverse influences that range from the indie rock/folk world of Elephant 6, to the experimental mind-trips of Animal Collective, to the African street sounds of Konono No. 1, and all they way back to his California roots with The Beach Boys. Now, these are all incredible artists, influencing many bands along the way and often mimicked by amateurs. However, no band has molded their influences into such a complete and unique sound better than The Ruby Suns.
“Blue Penguin,” the first track off of Sea Lion, The Ruby Suns’ sophomore album, begins with a dragging acoustic guitar and ambient noise, a combination that would have fit well on Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs. Almost two minutes into this static, over-amplified acoustic strums and mangled percussion kick in – sounding as if The Beta Band had taken a vacation in Tahiti. The layered vocals are wistful and harmonious, like the Beach Boys, and they truly express island life, as does the next track, “Oh, Mojave,” which, ironically, is an ode to California’s Mojave Desert.
“Tane Matua” is rhythmically Polynesian and is the most lively song on the record, representing the Maori culture in which McPhun has found a home. Nevertheless, he still incorporates his worldly influences into the rest of the album, adding his U.S. indie rock taste for the Elephant 6 Collective into “There are Birds,” the California Beach Boy charm into “Remember,” and the thumb piano vibe of Konono No. 1 into “Ole Rinka.”
Sea Lion is an international charmer and should come with every copy of Lonely Planet’s global guide. Not only is the album culturally diverse and ever so loveable, but it is also very much inspirational. It is a traveler’s album, a passport full of stamps, a map of the world. It is the sound of sunsets seen from the jungles of Africa, the beaches of California, and the waterfalls of New Zealand. So, pack your bags.
Listen to "Tane Mahuta" then get Sea Lion from Sub Pop.
- Caleb Moraity
I'm Losing My Edge