Grass Stains & Novocaine, the 2019 twee-infused debut long player from San Francisco’s gateway fog-pop band Seablite, captivated listeners with a wall of fuzz, reverb, and early career Wes Anderson vibes. It was during a fortuitous live show at a Noise Pop event in early 2020, wandering through the Valencia Street corridor with a group of Bay-Area music bon vivants, that we stumbled upon The Chapel, a revered venue for independent live music. Once a funeral home in a previous life, this building has booked and hosted cutting-edge upcoming local and national headliners for ten years in The Mission district. Much like the band on stage, it serves as a nerve center of sorts for the emerging wave of guitar-based bands resonating in San Francisco these days.
On the long-awaited sophomore record Lemon Lights the self-described jangle-gaze outfit, inspired by ’80s/’90s indie and shoegaze bands, dwells in some darker, more pronounced textures than their previous efforts. More ummph in the ennui. It’s a strangely breezy 39-minute listen that puts you in the living room of Lauren Matsui, lead vocalist and guitarist for the band, socializing to what could be a night’s soundtrack of a long-running local 90’s Britpop friendly party Popscene circa 1996. Which is a none-too-bad hang.
Seablite, consisting of Matsui (who moonlights as the bass player for Neutrals), Galine Tumasayan (vocalist and bass player), Jen Mundy (formerly of Wax Idols on second guitar), and Andy Pastalaniec (the band’s drummer who started his own band Chime School a couple of years ago), conveys a certain aesthetic in these 12 songs, rocking smarter than before. The melancholy is more intense, a brighter shade of green, adding prismatic shimmer to the joyful racket, tossing aside the previous saccharine.
Lemon Lights offers a captivating mix of pop styles, delivering on the oath of popping a can of alt-’90s energy wide open on the Live 105-esque “Melancholy Molly,” the gracefully downcast “Hit The Wall” with its thrift store romp and riff, and the pastel nature of “Monochrome Rainbow,” hitting with Cure-like accents. However, the standout track is “Blink Each Day,” with hazy lyrics blending in and out amidst the fading mawkish hookery amid ascending feedback delicacies of raging tube amps, giving the album and this weathervane of a band their well-earned advanced distinction.
Label: Mt. St. Mtn.
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to Treble since 2018. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in The Wire, 48 Hills, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK and Drowned In Sound.