Something magical often happens when complementary male and female voices come together in harmony -- Angus and Julia Stone, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, the Civil Wars, She and Him, the Head and the Heart, the list goes on and on.
Go ahead and add the Spiritual Motels, a local indie-folk/pop duo comprised of Amy Day and Omar Musisko, to it. Individually, the pair are no stranger to the San Diego music scene, with plenty of experience under their collective belt performing in town in groups like the Peripherals, the Local and others --however, Nov. 22 marks the premiere of their debut studio full-length album, "Super Tiny Disappearing Oceans," under the Spiritual Motels moniker, along with a new music video for their single "Stealing Home."
Throughout the 10-track affair -- recorded over the last year at Earthling Studios in El Cajon with Mike Kamoo -- the two croon their way through velvety acoustic yarns, occasionally throwing in accordion, mandolin, piano, and stomping percussion for good measure. Those textures mainly serve to add an extra dimension to the nuts and bolts of the record, which is undoubtedly the fragile interplay between Day and Musisko's voices. While both have a rounded, easy tone, his has a certain whisper to it, like he’s afraid to wake the baby in the next room. Individually, the two are both fully capable singers, but when they're singing together in unison? That's the ticket.
The album's lyrics, penned by Musisko, read like they could've been lifted from an old book of poetry hiding among the shelves in Verbatim: "Lying low on the bed / Thinking back to who we were when we first met / I see her dancing on the cliff's edge in that flowered hippie dress / As I trace infinity signs on her skin... somewhere in remembering" (from "Bandaged Up Hearts"). C'mon, those are lines that David Gray or Ray LaMontagne would pillage a small village for, right?
Of course, this album will resonate with some more than others (as do most things): a couple tracks are a bit too sing-songy and/or rely on various folk-pop tropes a little too often. Also, it'd be interesting to hear what the duo can do if they committed to graduating beyond the coffeehouse sound and into riskier territory sonically.
But as a first effort, the Spiritual Motels have laid down a solid listen. And if it's beauty you're looking for, there's no shortage of it on "Super Tiny Disappearing Motels" -- nowadays, that’s a very good thing.
The Spiritual Motels headline the Merrow for their album release on Saturday, Nov. 23, with Lindsay White and the Becca Jay Band. Tickets are $10 at the door. Visit them at their website and follow them on Facebook.
Dustin Lothspeich is SoundDiego's senior associate editor, a San Diego Music Award-winning musician, and talent buyer at The Merrow. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.