Departing (if only slightly) from the irresistibly catchy punk ditties of their 2007 debut, Sleeping in the Aviary’s Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel is a solid, genre-bending follow-up. Tossing accordion/saw player, Celeste Huele, into the mix, SITA have developed their sound into more of an indie-folk likeness, but that’s not to say they have forgotten how to write a deliriously appealing hook.
This instantly likeable, airy lo-fi conjures the good times had in basements lit by Christmas lights and rooftops lit by street lamps. Similar to such acts as Flaming Lips, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Two Gallants, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel displays impeccably well-rounded rock sensibilities and stays cohesive despite a great deal the movement between genres. The constant presence of triple meter is like the musical glue holding together a truly emotionally dynamic experience. At times the rhythm is uplifting, swaying your body uncontrollably, such as in “Things Look Good.” Other times it is bittersweet and heartfelt, or melancholy and introspective, such as in “Maybe You’re the Same” and “Windshield.” Even the sound quality of the recording is emotional, the presence of a slight echo to the music creating a sense of space, as if the album was recorded in big room in a cabin tucked away in the mountains.
There were some artistic choices I could have done without. There is a hacking cough at the end of “Things Look Good” that kind of grossed me out, and I could’ve done without the wild distortion bit at the end of “Write On.” There are about five seconds at the beginning of “Everybody’s Different, Everybody Dies” that sound like an awful recording mistake, and the digital, synth, and experimental sounds at the end of “Ladybug Death Song” and the untitled bonus track felt really out of place.
However, these miniscule moments do not overshadow the overall quality of this album. The insatiable hook to “Write On” (“I just wanna write you out of my heart”) invokes the melodic sentiments of the Undertones, calling to mind childhood bike rides in the summertime. “Calm Me Down” features irresistible harmonies and a hook I was singing before the end of the song. The banjo, tambourine, and multi-part harmony found in “Girl in The Ground” reminded me (in a good way) of a summer camp talent show performance. And the saw in “Gas Mask Blues” effectively builds a heavy mood, conjuring the sense of grief after tragedy. This song, and true of the entirety of Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel, is testament to SITA’s incredible ability to meld and blend genres, fusing twang, blues, and punk rock. A truly graduated effort, like a fine wine, this album is a beautiful example of a band able to mature with time.