Space Heat Happy Birthday EP (Field Trips / Bleeding Gold)
Back in April, indie-rock quartet Trips—formerly Jesus A.D.—announced the launch of their own label, Field Trips. To christen the new imprint, each member of the group would introduce his own solo project, and all of them would eventually be collected as a two-LP compilation.
The first of the band to introduce new music, singer / guitarist Jakob McWhinney, has adopted the name Space Heat, and his record, the three-song Happy Birthday EP, is a fun and jangly introduction to a new musical persona. It's not a drastic transformation, by any means; where Trips is a danceable, guitar-driven indie-rock band with surf and punk influences, Space Heat is dreamier and more atmospheric. At the end of the day, though, it's still a project characterized by the use of similarly shimmering guitar leads and bright, catchy melodies. If it ain't broke— and so on and so forth.
Happy Birthday is short—just around 12 minutes long, which makes it the perfect length to fit on a 7-inch single. But the three songs featured cover enough melodic ground to make for a compelling enough preview of things to come. The first track, "Porn," is also the strongest. It's the longest and most spacious of the three, driven by a dub-influenced rhythm and scratchy post-punk / dreampop guitars. And it's those guitars—lightly treated with reverb and delay—that make the song such a delight, though McWhinney's own double-tracked vocal harmonies are a fine complement to the song's arrangement.
The other two songs, "Starsign" and "Place Inside," are a bit faster and a lot more straightforward. The former is two minutes of surf-punk hedonism, kicking up the tempo and turning up the fuzz, while the latter splits the difference between the other two songs, itself a perfectly good, if unremarkable, slice of beach indie. And almost as soon as it begins, Happy Birthday fades out, following one of show business' most cardinal rules: Leave the audience wanting more. Though there are only three songs here, and plenty of growth ahead for Space Heat's songwriting, as a first EP, Happy Birthday isn't too shabby.