Music, Print, Reviews April 29, 2019

Album Review: Tyto Alba – Sucker

by Kevin Johnston

Newfound polish and poise comes to Denver dream pop / shoegaze indie rockers Tyto Alba with their forthcoming record Sucker, out May 4. Leader Melanie Steinway’s high melodies stretch further than before, providing a relatable innocence at the humble center of the spatially aware, dark, echoey pulses the Denver four-piece provides.

The mid-tempo hipster-sych vibes of opener “Accusations” continue on “Til You Make It” with exciting, tight vocal harmonies layered under soft saxophones. Moments like these indicate the thoughtfulness Tyto Alba have invested on their first full-length.

“Shadow Monster” lifts the mood with a beach-band feel, chorused-out guitars and a playfulness that reminds us of perhaps the OG female-fronted Denver indie rock band Dressy Bessy. Still, lyrics like “then the chemicals found their way in and set fire to our playground” remind us that Tyto Alba love juxtaposing light with gloom.

Minor-key arpeggios on “Papillion” backed by subtle synth washes are axed down by Daniel DiMarchi’s Rickenbacker bass a la “The Chain.” This track peaks with Steinway’s yelp of “we gotta bring this sucker down” amidst a rich, swirling build like something off The Cure’s Disintegration.

“Shallow View” might be the most pop-rock tune of the collection, though at 6 1/2 minutes (the latter 2 of which practically scream “Barracuda”) there’s a (gulp) jam element to the “Cure-iness” as well. With driving elocuted bass under shimmering duo guitar work from founding members Matthew Rossi and Steinway respectively, we can feel the band as a live entity here.

“Oh Pride” (Sucker’s first single) recalls a Twin Peaks-esque instrumental hook, and the Interpol-esque bombast of “Baby Teeth” highlights Rossi’s guitar work. Andrew Bair’s drumming plays a key supporting role throughout, though his stuttering snare groove in “Somnambulist” (the album’s closer) truly drives it home in style.

Sucker pulls out a few new tricks: Imogen Heap-like vocal stacks on “Souvenir” and the sax move in “Till You Make It,” but their bread and butter is cloudy, bummed-out guitars and the use of emptiness to set the listener up for those surprise forté bursts. This intimate, subtractive approach reminds us: epic production aside, Tyto Alba are four friends from the South Broadway scene in Denver living the shoegaze dream.

Tyto Alba celebrate the release of Sucker May 4 at The Hi-Dive in Denver and perform June 7 with Ivory Circle at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox.