I can’t be certain as to whether it was on the band’s mind in the studio or not, but with everything I hear when I listen to Cal-Island: Season 1, the new record by west coast pop juggernaut Sex People, I can’t help but get the impression that these guys had one goal when they recorded this EP above all else. That goal, as I see it, was to make an EP that transcends the limits of lyrics and conventional hooks in search of something more connective and relatable on a physical level. Their efforts prove to be well worth it in songs like the fuzz-laden “The LA Air” and temperamental “No West Left,” which exhibit a versatile profile unlike any other I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in the last year.
There’s an undeniable avant-garde theme to the structure of Cal-Island’s best chunks of pop jangling, namely “Sanctuary City” and the “Mr. Emperor,” but in general I feel like this is a band that isn’t all that fond of categorization to begin with. The opening salvo in “Like a Queen” has the texture of a club song but quickly descends into something more streamlined and alternative in nature. “No West Left” vaults between genres and never really gets comfortable with any of them; its allure is in the way it toes the line between complacency and obtuse brilliance, always leaning more on the latter than the former. Cal-Island is an excellent crossover work for the pop crowd and the more discriminating audio aficionados that hang left of the dial, and I can see both scenes really embracing it with open arms.
The melodies that make “Sanctuary City,” “The LA Air” and the other tracks on this record so sweet are packaged as to make them as anthemic as possible without damaging the understated framework of the compositions themselves. If you were to strip away all of the electricity from this release and leave only the bare bones instrumentation, the vocals and the design concept intact, you wouldn’t end up with a lot of white noise and dribble that needed to be filtered through external entities just to be palatable. You’d find minimalist pop songs that have been kicked in the head with amplified synth grooves to make them all the more engrossing when consumed at full volume.
They’ve still got plenty of room for growth (and a smidge left for maturity), but overall Cal-Island: Season 1 offers us a lot to look forward to from Sex People and their wholly inspired take on simple power pop and electrified ambience. For having only been together a limited amount of time, it’s more than obvious that these cats know how to have a good time in the studio, not take themselves too seriously and devote themselves more to the medium than they do the pressures that come with trying to get a new professional vehicle up and running. They’ve got my stamp of approval moving ahead, and if you give Cal-Island: Season 1 a spin this month, I think they’ll have yours, too.