Sweet Valley's "Stay Calm"

Sweet Valley's "Stay Calm"

  • Article by: Jon O'Brien
  • Posted: 08/02/2012

Self-described as a “soundtrack to getting drunk this summer,” Stay Calm is the appropriately woozy debut mix-tape from Sweet Valley, aka Wavves’ Nathan Williams and his brother Joel. 

The tropical riffs which accompany the pitch-shifted sample of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ “Bye Bye Baby” on “Total Carnage” and the ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll twangs nestled alongside the emphatic J Dilla-inspired hip-hop beats on “Malibu Games” prove he hasn’t left the surf-pop leanings of his day-job behind completely. 

But otherwise, this is worlds apart from his usual lo-fi garage rock output. Released through Brooklyn label Fool’s Gold, its nine instrumental tracks hop from brass fanfares (31-second opener “Valley Viking”) to Bhangra (“Suzuka 9 Hours”) with a similar reckless abandon to the likes of The Go! Team and Jason Forrest

Built around an array of obscure samples and 8-bit loops, the trippy electronica of the title track and the disorientating arcade game score of closer “Final Zone” are exactly the kind of intoxicating bedroom pop fare you’d expect considering the duo’s intentions.

But Stay Calm works best when it goes against its commanding title and ventures into more tense and agitated territory. “Sidewalk Surfer” combines its skittering beats and smooth jazz hooks with layers of haunting barbershop quartet vocals, while “Dunk Dreams’” eerie synths and bombastic tuba hooks conjure up images of a ghost train ride entering a particularly demented big-top circus.

Something of a stoner-friendly curveball then, but clocking in at just under a slightly paltry 23 minutes, you wish that the two siblings could perhaps have torn themselves away from their beloved video games just a little longer. 

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