When I first told my friend that Sun Room had put out a new EP, he asked me, “Are they going to whine about crashing their car, cutting their hair and going surfing again?” Imagine my surprise when I heard the lyrics to the first song were “Monday I crashed my car” and the second track was titled “Cut My Hair.” Now either my friend had listened to the record and didn’t tell me he’s a psychic, or Sun Room’s creativity is about as wide as the short end of a longboard.
“At Least I Tried” is the fourth EP of the Point Loma-derived surf rock band, Sun Room. Debuting in 2020, they have been steadily releasing singles and EPs as well as gaining momentum on the live circuit with multiple tours across the US and Europe. While this success on tour might be promising for their careers as rockstars, they have yet to create anything that elevates their work into the realm of artistry.
Their previous EP, “Outta Their Minds,” was a poorly recorded attempt at a surf rock record that was lacking in creativity, ingenuity and studio fluency. Whatever elements of the music that might have been fun at live shows did not translate to the record, resulting in an over-distorted, derivative mess that lacked personality, musical talent, and identity; it was as if they had re-recorded a collection of songs by Surf Curse, The Killers and The Neighborhood onto a cassette that had already been recorded over itself 30 times.
What I will admit about this new EP is that it sounds like the band did, in fact, try to improve the quality of their recordings. Quickly apparent on this record, and consistent throughout, is that the boys were able to create something that was clearer, more polished and better produced. The mixing has improved, the distortion has been decluttered and all the different instruments’ voices have been better balanced.
In regard to their engineering, their stylistic variety has diversified and improved, as opposed to their previous EP’s apparent strategy of distorting everything beyond belief to hide that they sound like Surf Curse. One minor nitpick about the production though: what they gain in clarity, they lose in dynamic range. Track two, “Cut My Hair,” has some motion to it, but the rest of the tracks are flatline. Whether it’s two guitars or 50, everything seems to sit at the same volume, but at least it’s all loud.
Unfortunately, the lack of dynamic diversity permeates throughout the rest of this record. This is most offensively evident on track three, “Kicking Rocks,” a sleepy, Neighborhood-and-Surf-Curse-sounding crossover that is entirely lacking in charisma. It suffers from boring verses that are almost indistinguishable from the chorus, it has an unvarying rockabilly-swing energy to it that sounds like it’s been drowned in Xanax, and vocalist Luke Asgian sounds more bored singing the song than I am listening to it.
The final track, “Stuck In The Heat,” is probably the best one; it’s fun, lively and would probably be fun to mosh to. Unfortunately, the guitar solo is laughably uninteresting, revealing a lack of voice or showmanship from any of the musicians on the project, and lays a metaphorical wet blanket on the end of the song and the record.
Overall, Sun Room has significantly improved their recording technique and sound quality, but they took a significant step back in charisma and creativity, and Sun Room’s redundant and derivative songwriting has lost the likeability that was driven by its cheerful momentum. If they can find a balance, as well as seriously redirect their energy into originality, they have the potential to stop being a merely above-average garage band. At least they tried, but better luck next time.