2019 Albums of the Year from Pale Lights

I’m a big fan of indiepop outfitPale Lights, and I reach out to the band from time to time, like I did this year when I was compiling my Year End List collection from people I admire. The band got back to me with their collective list, including some reissues, which you can find down after the jump. I don’t mind one bit seeing Robert Forster on a list!

Be sure to go listen to the Pale Lights at their Bandcamp page, and then check out their great new track for the FadeawayRadiate Compilation.

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Enjoy New Sonny & the Sunsets

sonnyI think it’s time we all give credit to Sonny Smith, leader of Sonny & the Sunsets. For six “official” albums and countless other releases/projects he constantly is redefining his sound. While I have my personal favorites, I’m really stoked on his new approach. On this single, it seems like it’s a crash of new-wave style and the Television Personalities, so I can clearly get behind that sound. It’s interesting, yet still has some of the same stylistic approaches all Smith records wear; it’s great to move and change. His new LP, Moods Baby Moods, comes out on May 27th via Polyvinyl Records.

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Rejoice in New Sonny & the Sunsets

sonnyThis is one of those pieces that really excites me.  I love the work of Sonny Smith, so I’m excited to hear that he’s got new tunes coming our way; I was beginning to think it had been awhile.  But, that being said, he seems to be taking a step in a slightly new direction here.  Now, it’s not that I don’t really love this track, because I do, but if you’ve listened to his latest releases with Sonny & the Sunsets, there seems to be more of a group effort in the song’s construction, which casts a wider net on Smith’s spin of pop music.  The rest of the band seems more involved, and I think that’s going to set things up for quite a listen when Talent Night at the Ashram is released via Polyvinyl on February 17th. This number also got some nice video treatment you can follow HERE.

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Show Review: Kurt Vile @ Mohawk (8/20)

The crowd filled into Mohawk on a warm August evening, selling out for one of the most popular names in the indie realm, Kurt Vile. He came into town behind praise for Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze, his latest album; he was supported by Sonny and the Sunsets

I probably had different feelings than most leaving the night, so you can read those thoughts, or just check out the great photo work of our boy Brian Gray.

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Show Preview: Kurt Vile @ Mohawk (8/20)


Date 8/20/13
Location Mohawk
Doors 6:30pm
Tickets $20 @ Door

Our apologies for the short notice on this one, but we feel the need to let you know about such a great show regardless of timeliness.  So tonight you should head on down to Mohawk for a great dual bill featuring Kurt Vile & The Violators along with Polyvinyl vet Sonny & the Sunsets.  It’s rare that you’ll find a bill in town with not one, but two solid indie rock n roll acts so we suggest you make the most of this rare opportunity.  Ya dig?


Download: Kurt Vile – Never Run Away [MP3]


Sonny Smith Keeps Trucking with New Sonny & the Sunsets Tune

1838I don’t think anyone in the world works as hard as Sonny Smith, except for maybe Ty Segall.  It seems like Sonny always has something in the works, be it his solo work or his band Sonny & the Sunsets.  He just released a new single that will be featured on his upcoming effort with his band; the record is called Antenna to the Afterworld and will be released by Polyvinyl Records on June 11th.  Interestingly, this song has less of a folk feel, changing it for that current Cali guitar sound that you find in many of the modern acts from the state (many of whom Sonny has worked with).  I’m interested to see how the whole record comes together, especially if he’s mixing things up.

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More New Music From Sonny & The Sunsets

As the June 26th release date for Sonny & The Sunsets new album Longtime Companion approaches, it seems appropriate to share another new song from the LP.  This one is called “I See the Void” and features the same sort of down trodden yet somehow still catchy style we heard on last post “Pretend You Love Me”.  The album as a whole is a gem that’s surely something you’ll want to pick up later this month via Polyvinyl.


Download: Sonny and the Sunsets – I See the Void [MP3]

Hunx – Hairdresser Blues

Rating: ★★★★☆

Almost less than a year ago, we got Too Young To Be In Love, the second (sort of) album from Hunx and His Punx.  It was filled with its usual amounts of scuzzy punk and bits of kitsch.  But, that era of frivolity seems to have dissipated, if only temporarily, leaving us with the first solo outing of Hunx.  Unlike his normal gig, we find the man much more exposed, emotionally speaking, giving us a personal spin on his always affecting tunes.

“Your Love Is Here to Stay” begins the mellow affair with Hunx reflecting upon a lasting love, but it’s the gentle strummed guitar that distinguishes this from his more frenetic numbers.  There’s an element of innocence here too that’s certainly endearing for listener’s, exposing our narrator.  “Private Room” maintains that same sentiment, yet with the added female vocal accompaniment and impacting drums, you’ll find a bit more pace on this number.  Stylistically, it’s more what you’ve come to expect from Hunx‘s traditional fare.

The one-two punch of hits on Hairdresser Blues comes in the form of “Always Forever” and “Hairdresser Blues.”  The first of these two tracks definitely has that California garage-rock feel to it, but only with more restraint–in a positive way.  For me, the response of “always forever” certainly grabs my attention and makes it a song I’ll play for some time. “Hairdresser Blues” is a jangling piece of joyousness, though the lyrical content might make you think otherwise.  It’s sort of like Hunx‘s version of a Sonny and the Sunsets, compiling pieces of sunshine, pop, and grit to craft a well-written tune.

Perhaps what hits home the most with the record are the two closing tracks.  “Say Goodbye Before You Leave” reminisces about Hunx‘s relationship with Jay Reatard, a personal favorite, so it definitely hits a personal note.  But, more importantly it’s a song about loss, which holds a universal theme for us all, so regardless of the subject matter for our songwriter here, we can all relate to this, especially the closing statement that “it’s just too bad.” Apparently, “When You’re Gone” is another homage to a bit of loss, with Hunx reflecting about his deceased father.  Again, the universality of his lyrics on this effort stand out, bringing home the personal message that seems so important to the narrative being spun on Hairdresser Blues. It wraps up the record with an emotional reminder that surely resonates with every listener–worth the dozen or more spins I’ve given it in the last hour.

What stands out the most about this record really has to be the exposed persona of Hunx on Hairdresser Blues.  While he’s usually a bundle of energy and sexuality (things I enjoy), there’s a personal note on this effort that really supersedes the music.  While it is a bit solemn, the sincerity leaves you with a bit of solace, a bit of clarity and hope.  If he starts to combine these elements with his old-school brashness, there’s no telling what a huge hit Hunx could be.


Download:Hunx – Always Forever [MP3]

Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania

Rating: ★★★½☆

A bit of time has passed since Thee Oh Sees released Warm Slime, but we’ve not got the first of two 2011 releases from the band, Castlemania.  Apparently the band dedicated a lot of time in the studio to the recording of this record, and while the songs are kept short, the extra layers definitely provide a great deal of depth to the band’s sound.  It’s a record full of twists and turns, all of which leave us asking, what can the band do next?

“I Need Seed” begins our affair with bit of a repetitive stomp from the group, though that’s a good thing here.  Call and response lyrics, make this a catchy ditty, but it’s not too polished, keeping the live element of the band on the studio recording.  Then you’ll move into a bit of a boogie with “Corprophagist,” which blasts off with horns and such amid the cacophonous vocals evident here.  It’s an energetic beginning to Castlemania, and one that sets the tone for the places Thee Oh Sees will go.

Studio effects are definitely apparent by the time you get to “Corrupted Coffin,” which features some sort of organ, atop all the horn work.  Slower pacing creates the space for the band to bring their own noisy style into the area where one might normally place a chorus.  But, this track doesn’t prepare you for the following number, “Pleasure Blimp.”  You can see similarities with Sonny and the Sunsets, using that old barroom country effect to create a sing-a-long melody, though their version is filled with a little less clarity in regards to the sound of the vocals.  Different band, different spin.

Even with all the twists and turns, you can easily follow the musical path on Castlemania, which, personally, contains some of my favorite tracks. “Whipping Continues” shares some style with the opener, providing you with a bit of a stomp, but it’s the melodious vocals, aside from the baritone in the background, that really reach out and suck you into the song.  Wild yelps give you hints at how Thee Oh Sees kick it out live, combining great studio moments with live attributes.  You’ll then find a bit of swagger with “AA Warm Breeze,” which uses varying vocal approaches, not to mention a mean little harmonica soloing in the various spots.  Then the band get as close as they probably ever will to a nice ballad with “If I Stay Too Long.”  Everything about this track should make you a fan of the band, or at the very least the song.  There’s that bit of discordant noise, yet the chorus with its dominating female vocal illustrates just what a bit of focus in the studio can do for an already incredible band. Probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.

There’s sixteen songs on Castlemania, and not a one of them could be considered a bad track. From the minute the whole record kicks off, Thee Oh Sees are taking a new approach; they’re combining quality recording time with their live energy.  At times, you feel as if you’re right there stomping your feet along at your favorite venue, and at other points you’re glad the band had the wherewithal to give a little bit more depth to their powerful sound.  In the end, you’re not going to go wrong spending a lot of time here.


Download: Thee Oh Sees – I Need Seed [MP3]

Castelmania is out now on In the Red Records!

Sonny and the Sunsets – Hit After Hit

Rating: ★★★★☆

Sonny Smith likes to dabble in various things: collaborating with The Sandwitches, making up bands, and not to mention the music for his own band. While not the most complex of bands, Sonny and the Sunsets still manage to produce excellent and ever so jangly indie pop/rock that is sure to prove enjoyable for everyone.

One of this band’s greatest attributes is the shortness of each song: most of them traverse the time period of two minutes, which is perfect for this kind of music. On the first and longest song, “She Plays YoYo With My Mind,” Sonny starts things off muddily as he paints a narrative of a love that is playing tricks with his mental sanity. Soft clicking starts out the song, which is joined later by that tambourine and the classic bass. The song builds upon itself, layering simplistic element on top of simplistic element, giving the outcome of raw pop. With all of the bands that work so hard to create intricate sounds through the use many instruments, and/or electronic components, this band’s sound feels like a whiff of fresh air. I mean, I love all of those highly detailed bands, but it’s nice to have a break every once and awhile.

As I mentioned earlier, the simplicity of this band is really what makes their sound so appealing and enjoyable. With tracks like “Home and Exile,” that rely on the simple harmonization and juxtaposition of Sonny’s bitter vocals with that of him female counterpart. On this track and overall, Sonny and the Sunsets, with their janglieness being the center of their sound, sound similar to that of a much more fun and poppier Dutchess and the Duke. They explore all kinds of topics in their lyrics, from that of their teenage years, to sadness, to the feeling of being radioactive. To finish off the album, “Pretend You Care” chimes in with its surfy, angled guitars and high-pitched synth. At the end of the song, you have a lovely breakdown of more of this guitar with some matted drums. It’s that point in the album where you appreciate all that this band has done, if that point hadn’t already happened.

Like the title of the album, Sonny and the Sunsets give you song after song that makes you love them, and easily at that. Upon the first listen, I was transfigured by their perfect-for-summer, or any season, sound that transcends its simplicity. Unlike other albums that take time to love, this one is a hit right off the bat. So have a listen.

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