Occasionally, when the mood strikes, I’ll make seasonal recommendations, and folks, today is one such occasion. Newly reissued by Fat Possum, Sonny & The Sunsets’ LP Tomorrow is Alright (originally released in 2009 via Soft Abuse) deserves a place in your summer soundtrack. Tailor made for sunburns, balmy nights and road trips, this is a record that already sounded good, and now, having given it the obligatory beach/campfire test, I’m reminded why some music, some artists, truly shine on a seasonal plane. Go ahead: act irresponsible, ditch work and put this on. – AD
In music, as in life, the prevalent myth concerning creation tells us to trust what’s new. Progress, newness, the frisson of juxtaposition—maybe it’s a longing for some sort of virginity, some version of culture and life that’s unspoiled by the shoddy Xeroxes that show the inevitable faults in any new style, genre, philosophy. The cutting edge has not yet become dirty. It’s the only thing that hasn’t let us down. If the Strokes reminded us of anuthing it’s that we don’t need new styles: we only need sharper juxtapositions.
What, then, to make of San Franciscan Sonny Smith and his trio of Sunsets, they who sound like the Bay Area has always sounded, they who write songs we’ve all heard before and play them in familiar ways? What to make of these stoned-down folkies with their barrelhouse pianos and flecks of acoustic guitar? Tomorrow is Alright, their debut LP, is nothing new and it’s nothing shocking, all the way down to the title’s shrug at the future. It represents no movement forward for rock ‘n’ roll or the world at large. It makes no interesting philosophical point. And it is very, very good.
Smith is a prolific songwriter who exhibited a hundred song deep art installation before he even had out a full-length, and he sings with a jittery voice smoothed out by a strong sense of melody. He drenches himself and his band in layers of reverb and dresses up with distorted microphones and fluttery percussion. The songs here trip through Bay Area folk, doo wop, and early rock, all of it played deep in the pocket and tossed off with a confidence in the collective atmosphere. Everything here feels close, as though it were recorded in a single living room, lamps on and cross-legged, but isn’t necessarily intimate. The space doesn’t serve as Smith’s confessional so much as it does his apartment, and we get the sense that we’re all here together, relaxing, just killing time until we’re ready to go home. The rare moments of tension are more playful than they are resonant: the bent guitars of “Stranded” quickly give way to a trotting melody, and the trance shaker and trash guitar “Lovin’ On An Older Gal” come across like an inverted “Sister Ray,” Sonny batting around with his Sunsets between verses on the perks of dating older women.
This is no stakes music, low drama, lowbrow, and it’s certainly been done many times before. But there’s a sweetness here, an honesty, a devotion to craftsmanship and delight, an instant and lasting pleasure. words/ m garner