“I’m a lazy lover,” Sun Hotel frontman Tyler Scurlock admits on “Alprazolam”, the last song on the band’s second and final album. His deft guitar work throughout Rational Expectations’ 10 tracks might suggest otherwise, but maybe that’s why he’s saying “lazy” instead of “inept.” It’s an oddly striking confession, an acknowledgment that this is something he has the power to change. What’s missing is the drive to do so.
Thwarted potential lurks around every corner of Rational Expectations. It’s in the very circumstances of the album’s release; after a few EPs and one previous full-length to their name, the New Orleans quartet plan to call it quits to pursue solo projects after sending Rational Expectations out into the world. As carefully crafted and enjoyable as these 40 minutes of dreamy guitar rock are, it’s hard to get too invested when you know it will be over soon, like the possibility of falling in love on spring break.
Despite these external circumstances, the charms of Rational Expectations are ultimately winsome. Drenched in distortion and tempo changes, “After Peggy Tells Her Parents They Never Had Any Trouble in Their Relationship” sometimes gallops and sometimes moves slowly and thoughtfully, invoking the dual exhilaration and laziness of summer and the last gasping breaths of a relationship. The song doesn’t go far toward answering the questions prompted by its title (who “they” and “their” refer to, exactly, remains unclear), but more than anything else it captures the feeling of grasping for something that’s no longer there.
The melancholy and sauntering “11:57 AM” addresses taking the unknown in stride, “comparing your horoscope to patterns that aren’t so already known.” Songs like “Tropic of Cancer (Made Me Drop Out of College and Start Working at This Bookstore)” buck the themes of reflection that permeate so much of the album and feel firmly grounded in the present. “I still smoke pot at five in the morning, feeling like I don’t matter,” Scurlock sings. “Tropic of Cancer” is presumably a nod to Henry Miller’s novel of the same name, but one could also imagine it as a particularly potent strain of cannabis.
In terms of investment, Rational Expectations feels more ambitious than the group’s previous work: It was recorded in the professional Living Room studio in New Orleans rather than a DIY space, and even its distortion sounds crisp. The group formed in 2009, and it’s not hard to imagine that the four of them wanted one last concrete accomplishment to show for their six years together. Ultimately, the album doesn’t get too bogged down in nostalgia. At the same time that Sun Hotel’s potential as a band is lost, Rational Expectations fully realizes its own.
Essential Tracks: “11:57 AM”, “After Peggy Tells Her Parents They Never Had Any Trouble in Their Relationship”