Tropic of Youth’s Sun City hitting my speakers as Sheffield basks in the sun is glorious serendipity. Should we be in the grasps of snowy misery this review could have gone so differently. Not to say the aptly titled EP is bad in any way, but from first listen it’s pure summer: festivals, blues skies and warm beer. I wouldn’t listen to Dylan’s depressing moments in the sunshine but in the darkest depths of winter they can make so much sense. Music appreciation is a subjective experience and when it translates well with environment it can produce some of the most evocative responses and I believe that’s what Tropic of Youth intended, hence Sun City.
Introductory ‘Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi’ (“Crazy cool like a banana”, Swahili for an informal response to hello and smile inducing like little else) bursts in with energetic latter days Strokes guitars, beautiful tones and an addictive drum and bass rhythm, provoking irresistible movement. Vocals spill over the top gracefully, accompanying without dominating.
‘Hot Season’ opens with a rippling guitar, think John Squire dressed in skinny jeans. The lyrical references to summer are in abundance, “Summer come back again, always, you’re in the back of my mind”, “I want to walk in the summer light, where the faces glow with happiness.” Such undemanding phrasing has to be commended, if for nothing but its sincerity. It could very well be about a girl called Summer, but ambiguity is its charm.
‘You’ is the standout track. Deep toms rumble away as some very cool guitar playing emerges, sweetly serenading that Sun City image the EP aspires to soundtrack. Vocals drift in, echoing and distant, delivered at an ever so slightly slower pace than the rhythm, creating a slight dreamy quality. A few early indie riffs slip in for a gentle touch of nostalgia, making ‘You’ a track of reminiscent celebration.
‘We Can’, with all the baroque-pop styling’s of Vampire Weekend carries an irresistible melody and ‘Post Youth’ rounds the EP off sweetly with a breaking of the constraints which have kept the EP poised thus far, unleashing a slightly more aggressive edge to Tropic of Youth.
What I like most about Sun City is that it just is what it is. There’s no token experimentation, no intentional deviation, just good, well-worked songs that are great to stick on as the afternoon ends. Sure they’re not going to win the Mercury award for Sun City, but why would they want to? Plenty of emphasis is placed on the strive for innovation in music these days but a band like Tropic of Youth works hard at being great at what they started as being good at.