San Francisco’s Citay are, on a very basic level, a guitar band. Mastermind Ezra Feinberg, along with co-conspirator and Fucking Champ Tim Green, builds epic sonic worlds and pristine, euphoric melodies from dazzling fretwork. There’s nothing a simple strum or a stomp of the fuzzbox can’t do on their albums. It’s not quite Jimmy Page, not quite John Fahey, and yet it’s almost a combination of both legends’ unique styles at once. In short, Citay are doing more for the instrument than most artists in 2010 would even think to explore.
And yet, on third album Dream Get Together, there is a lot more going on than just guitar. In first song “Careful With That Hat,” likely a tongue-in-cheek Pink Floyd nod, there are upbeat psychedelic grooves, sublime female vocals, lighthearted keyboard tones and good times all around. It’s practically a pop song, until the massive Valhallan guitar solos erupt in the second half of the song, of course. Feinberg and the three other axemen on this record never allow the listener to forget about the ever-present strumming of strings, yet it’s never overbearing or excessive. And a good reason why it never becomes so is simply due to the strength of the songs the group lines up. The title track, for instance, is a super fun jam rocker, somewhere between the Grateful Dead and The New Pornographers’ “Mass Romantic.” “Secret Breakfast,” meanwhile, is a dreamlike session that tosses what sounds like a flute into its swirling riffs. Merrill Garbus of tUnE-YarDs lends her vocals to the ethereal folk standout “Mirror Kisses,” and “Hunter” recalls Led Zeppelin with its dense, Middle Eastern inspired riffs and mighty stomp.
There’s scarcely a moment on Dream Get Together where a guitar isn’t the hero, but in Citay’s hands, that’s never a bad thing. While sometimes reliant on loose, jam-based structures rather than strict verse-chorus-verse constructs, these eight songs nonetheless provide a thoroughly engaging listen. I once thought that hearing the same Allman Brothers riffs weekly before guitar lessons for several years would have cured me of ever being impressed by lengthy passages of electric guitar leads. Citay has proven me wrong.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.