Summer is winding down here in New York City. Temperatures are settling comfortably into the 80s, and July’s heatpocalypse is fading into distant memory as a new, equally dreadful prospect fills the minds of CMJ’s interns: the start of the fall school semester. But while the rest of us are mourning the season’s end, Sacramento quartet Ganglians has stepped into the void with Still Living, the group’s latest record and this summer’s final musical hurrah. The outfit’s pair of 2009 LPs established a rough-around-the-edges, weirdo-rock savoir, but from the swinging, sing-along kick-off of the new record’s opening track (“Drop The Act”), it’s clear that the group has traded in some of that spook-psychedelia for sunny, escapist, Wilson-bros vibes.
Ganglians’ sound is more focused and charming than ever, which probably owes in part to producer Robby Moncrieff, who worked on another offbeat rock band’s coming-out party (Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca). But don’t worry; the fun police haven’t nixed all of these guys’ shenanigans. Plenty of studio quirks dot the record: the car alarms at the end of “Jungle,” mid-song studio chatter (”I’m just gonna riff around now”) and “Things To Know,” which sounds like My Morning Jacket teaming up with a barber shop quartet to write baby-making music.
But the meat of Still Living isn’t its quirks or vibes—it’s the songwriting itself, and since the album fills two LPs and almost an hour of play-time, it has a whole lot of that. “Jungle” is a primal, rhythmic strummer whose chorus harmonies sound like Fleet Foxes on a good day, and “Evil Weave” finds the band injecting a tenderly scintillating guitar solo into what’s otherwise a classic surf-rock jam.
It’s a fun act, but you could make the case that the record’s strongest songs aren’t the upbeat, road-trip-to-the-beach ones but the slower, more spacious ballads like “That’s What I Want” and “Sleep.” And it’s fitting. After all, summer’s almost done. How better to end it than by slowing things down?