In preparation for tour, one of San Diego’s most underrated and overlooked bands, Inspired and the Sleep, have recently released a new EP, aptly titled, Coming Up for Air. The brainchild of North County native, Max Greenhalgh, Inspired and the Sleep straddles the solo-group divide whilst navigating a genre range of Lo-Fi Psych-Folk to Afro-Caribbean-influenced Pop-Rock (or the term I prefer, “Postcolonial Pop”). Coming Up for Air leans heavily toward the latter designation and boasts a considerably more produced sound than previous recordings, which serves as both a virtue and a vice for this collection of songs.

The EP captivates immediately with the single-worthy “Sink,” runs aground with “Pool Guard,” and then blows wind in its sails once again with another clear single, “Fly Low.” While its pop sensibility is ever-present, Coming Up for Air lacks a degree of emotional depth that might otherwise launch the band onto a national stage, but this is something that comes with time and maturation. After all, the frequent moments of whimsicality in Greenhalgh’s voice make it clear that this is a very playful release, and the darker modulation of the last track, “Turning Screws,” is at least indicative of a future sound that could effectively marry hooks and grooves with both head and heart. As a result of its highly produced sound, this release loses some dynamic tension in the performances of each musician and each song as a whole, but it makes up for this with its appeal to the hips and an intellectual curiosity and experimentation with the forms of pop music (á la Dirty Projectors).

Listen to the EP and support the tour here

For all of its imperfections, Coming Up for Air offers a refreshingly unique perspective on pop music in San Diego and the direction in which it could head. The band takes risks with this EP while not losing sight of the community around them, demonstrating that Inspired and the Sleep will find success locally and nationally if they remain patient and allow their songs to propel them forward. Greenhalgh’s hooks are there, but the bulk of the songwriting – the meat on the rest of the lines – is what will reel in the listener, goad her into breaching the surface as she’s coming up for air.

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