On Napa Asylum, the San Francisco garage-rock band Sic Alps seems to approach its songs with scientific curiosity, a limited attention span and the intensity of a lazy California surf. On each of the album's 22 bite-sized tracks, the trio ventures into a different idea or sound, prodding at what makes a song tick just long enough to set it off and explore it — never longer. The band avoids lingering, quickly deconstructing and roaming away before it gets snagged on one idea and overstays its welcome. What emerges on Napa Asylum is less a polished product than an intriguing sketch of songs and their component parts.
Buried at the center of the album, "Meter Man" reveals a fuller pop sensibility, even as it's obscured by fuzz, feedback and a shrug at structure. Mike Donovan's words wander in, less to give the song meaning than to act as a vehicle to lure in the melody. Sic Alps' members flesh out the sound with every bar, but just as they cue up the perky piano to mimic Donovan's wordless vocals as he dances around a hook, they let go with a smirk. Causing the catchy could-have-been chorus to collapse into itself, the group steadies the song once again. "Meter Man" tiptoes on in a slow, '60s groove in its signature style: not toward a certain finish line, but toward the point at which Sic Alps' members have explored a sound without exhausting it and are ready to move on to the next.