Satellite Lot

Satellite Lot


"Sounding at times like a parallel-universe version of the E-Street Band, at others like some strange mutation of the indie-rock genome, Satellite Lot deliver luminously beautiful tunes with remarkably sophisticated melodies."


For watchers of Portland's indie-rock community, Satellite Lot were in danger of becoming more myth than reality. There have been whispers for years, promises of an album from a band than many pegged as one of the scene's most interesting and inventive. They were part Devo, part Mr. Bungle, part Beatles, with a feel as much for songwriting as performance and entertainment, and in love with their keyboards and computers.

Things, as they say, never really seemed to come together, though. Band members came and went. Most people forgot about Satellite Lot, other than to remember Skinny shows they once did — when was that, again?

Satellite Lot ended up as just two, Casey McCurry and Aaron Hautala, and they toiled away, recording and writing in their practice space and homes, at one point reimagining themselves as an all-vocals pop outfit, by one rumor. Samples of their work would be issued, the album would be discussed, they would go back underground.

In the last three months, however, things seem almost magically to have come together in indie-pop perfection. They've completed, mastered, and shipped their debut album, Second Summer , and it is a veritable masterpiece, full of melancholy-pop, ethereal song constructions and arrangements, and honest soul.

I was totally hooked from the first few bars. "That Wasn't Me" opens the album with a guitar piece like a kid practicing the coolest riff he ever thought up, in his bedroom, just slightly lo-fi. Then we enter into the song proper, with Hautala coining a wavering country pop, "I let me pride get carried away," slow and chill, full of real regret, then bursting into a rocking "until it strangled everything/ Whether you liked me or not (ot-ot) these days [complete with indie-rock warble]/ I pretend that wasn't me."

They chime in later by providing the acoustic-guitar foundation to "In Protest," an ethereal tune that seems more like the old Lot, though infused with some of the same melancholy sentiment as the newer stuff. A descending keyboard line drops in from the sky, a bass drum booms in (William Fernald), ghostly vocals fade to back and rise to front over a military drum-roll on the snare and a flute (or something), also old-timey military — then, is that an accordion? Why not? The song screams soundscape, like what you hear when epic movies are panning over great plains full of buffalo.

On "All Defenses Down," they riff off echoed vocals by the crystal-voiced Sydney Bourke, "rising from the water." The soft pop of the chorus, particularly the delivery on "so feel your insides out for a while," is so delicious you can taste it, as is the vampy indie/country/pop construction that follows a line like "two strangers pass on a dusty road."

Bourke also stands out on the album's finisher, "By Lantern Light," a crushing heartbreaker that gets you from note one. Bourke's ultra-high soprano cuts like an icy wind coming off the water in January before Hautala joins her like a warm embrace for the second half of each of the first two verses. It's a song for ghosts and spirits, piano and drums building and joined by keyboards that depart — cymbals crash, melodies build and repeat, the song hypnotizes.

What a contrast to the album's other real ear-catcher, "Hold Your Fire," like Bruce Springsteen covered by Meatloaf on an album produced by Prince. It's the little things that will win you over here: a light children's xylophone plucking out notes in the background; the boy's longing that comes with "oh, I was so crazy about you"; the fuzzed-out guitar solo paired with the clean drum sound they note was captured by Mark Bartholomew at Tsunami Sound.

Every detail is attended to here, yet the album never feels less than organic and evolving. The piano ballads shimmer, the Depeche Mode homages drive and burn, a dirge like "Keepin' You" comes complete with vocals affected and deep in the background, behind appropriate organs to open, before stepping up into an '80s synth number in half-time. What makes it all work? Maybe it's the bass drum calling out like a heartbeat, "thump, thump-thump."

Oh yeah, there's plenty of heart on this record.


Their debut album, Second Summer, was released in 2005. You can hear almost the entire album at the website:

We have received local radio airplay on WCYY, WCLZ, WMPG out of Portland, Maine.

Set List

Satellite Lot performs for 1hr 30mins typically, but has tailored sets for 30-40min slots as well.