Mantra: Sunjacket Album Review

Sunjacket: Mantra album art
Sunjacket: Mantra album art

Upon listening to the first song off Mantra, the 2016 Sunjacket album, I felt like I was in the movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It was as though I was drifting through dream tunnels, watching my favorite memories on screens on either side of the tunnel.

Maybe it’s the composition, or maybe it’s my mood.

Either way, this album has so far created for me the sensation that Radiohead always creates. That is, when I’m listening to them for the first time in a year, and it’s ever so satisfying, that I wonder how I let myself miss out on these sounds for a whole 12 months.

This is another Chicago band, whose inspirations probably span from six months a year of dreary, cold nights, to those beautiful, long, lost memories created in Chicago-unique locales.

When I read that Sunjacket’s Mantra was mastered with the help of Joe Lambert, who worked with Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors, I immediately opened Spotify to check out the Chicago band.

Sunjacket categorizes itself as a “dark, synth-driven pop to layered, syncopated rock band,” which is similar to how I would categorize Animal Collective. But, Mantra is indeed dark, and I would not associate Animal Collective with somberness, which is why I have such respect for Lambert. He can separate the two bands for what they are, and understands the message of each band when mastering their tracks.

The same goes for his work with Dirty Projectors, whose sound is much more delicate, and whose instruments are easily separable by the ear. Synthesizer on Mantra by Carl Hauck, Bryan Kveton and Jeff Rukes, brings unappealing crashing sounds together with their own vocals, guitars, bass, saxophone and piano and Garett Bodette’s drums, percussion and trumpet, to compile something profound and romantic.

However, the band doesn’t rely heavily on synthesizer, as vocals on songs like, “No One’s Around You” radiate in their minor key mystery, much like those of Royksopp. “Beautiful Day Without You” comes to mind most immediately, off Royksopp’s 2005 album, The Understanding.

“Not Enough” boasts Kveton’s piano genius, as it melds smoothly with the deep chimes of the guitar. And the album ends on the title track, which is prefaced with a slow, drifty piano riff whose cadence is unknown. This song comes at just the right moment, ending the album to convey that perhaps the mantra is only formed when one has come to the end of learning oneself, and has gained as much wisdom as his or she has capacity for.

And that each bang at the end of each musical phrase symbolizes another chapter completed, and another chapter closer to that mantra. The conclusion to the title song and the album is the sound of fingers tapping at a keyboard, probably portraying the writing of that Mantra.

Elif Geris
Elif Geris