Diego Garcia. Sounds sexy, doesn't it? It just rolls off the tongue in a mellifluous mouthful. Di-ego Gar-ci-a. Full of passion and possibility, it sounds like the name of someone who might stumble out of a romance novel, waiting to sweep a willing damsel off her feet. The Diego Garcia under consideration here, however, is neither a fiction character nor an Iglesiasian crooner. This Garcia fronts a band of New York up-and-comers called Elefant, a rock group riding that fine edge between retro and modern that seems to be at the forefront of popular culture right now.
Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, the first full-length from said band, is at once immediately recognizable and refreshingly different. It's as if the British invaded the Garcia household searching for the Cure but retreated after finding nothing but united shoplifters, leaving a Diamond Dog or two in the backyard on the way out. Though Elefant's influences are plainly worn on its proverbial sleeve, so is its heart. The majority of the songs on Sunlight are about amour, or the effects thereof. This vibe fits perfectly with the sparse guitar/bass/drums/keyboard instrumentals that highlight Garcia's rich, melancholic vocals: "Your lips are so sweet/The night is perfect/Take off your dress/And get up and dance around the room...in love" would sound like a bad come-on or hackneyed hokum coming from the mouths of most people, but Garcia sings these lines with unusual sincerity. The pulsing bass of "Misfit" intertwines with a serpentine guitar riff, and the love story "Tonight Let's Dance" is perfectly accentuated by gentle keyboard washes. "Static On Channel 4" and the title track showcase the band members' darker side, with pained misanthropy and chemical-fueled heliophobia clawing their way out of their craniums.
"Ester" closes the all-too-short album (ten songs in just over 30 minutes) with the question "With your heart all full, is there room for two?" "Ester" may still be up in the air, but Garcia seems to have plenty of room in his heart. Three songs on the record are named after women, and nearly all of them drip with the kind of sexuality and charisma not normally found in an indie-rock band. For Elefant, there is no irony about what they do, just simple melodies and a singer who sounds like he's trying to charm everyone who can hear his voice. Really though, what else could be expected from someone named Diego Garcia?