psych, prog and straight up pop...
Jon Thomson
14:19 13th February 2009

Sunny Day Sets Fire’s debut album ‘Summer Palace’ is enjoyable, if a little under-whelming. Forming in 2004 in the UK by Mauro and Onyee, the group released a couple of singles and then quickly expanded to a five-piece, with members hailing from Italy, Hong Kong, Sardinia, England, and Canada.  According to the press release their terrible name was pulled from an online band name generator – not that this fact has stopped me constantly calling them Sunday Sets Fire.

With such a melting pot of nationalities involved it was slightly disappointing to find that, aside from odd pronunciation of certain words, the resulting sound isn’t quite as exciting as one would hope. It is, however, clearly a collection of musicians who enjoy a varying selection of artists and styles and decided to just throw them all together and see what they could come up with. The general feel of the album is psych, prog and straight up pop - the latter seemingly their forte.

‘Teenagers Talking’, is a gem and sounds far superior to the two slightly flat opening tracks.  Where other songs require repeated listens to reap the rewards of the layers, ‘Teenagers Talking’ is instantly gratifying and could easily find its way onto radio playlists just in time for summer. And so begins a run of the most consistent songs on the album. ‘End of the Road’ follows, with hand claps a-plenty, a great Shadow’s-esque intro and sounding ever so slightly like a sped-up ‘Hotel California’. If you applied a Liverpudlian accent this would be the type of song the Zuton’s would kill for.

‘All Our Songs’ is an album highlight, where some of the other more progressive tracks lack conviction, here the group manages to come across epic without sounding pompous and deliver some of their best and most sinister melodies. From here on several tracks seem to drift by with less impact. ‘Siamese’ is a sparse piano driven arrangement sung in angelic tones by Onyee, but, strangely, manages to fall somewhere between Au Revoir Simone and ‘We’re Walking in the Air’ from the Snowman. ‘Mandarins’ and ‘Adrenaline’ are enjoyable but slightly generic - the latter reminiscent of I’m From Barcelona.

'Summer Palace' is a good record, but one that you constantly find yourself trying to pin-point where exactly you have heard this or that part before. On a track by track breakdown I could have referenced many more eclectic bands from The Flaming Lips, to The Raveonettes, to ELO and MGMT. What’s really impressive is that they have managed to blend all these styles into an album that still feels like a complete album and not forced or thrown together.