Pleased to Meet You: The Gonks

I’ve always admired the work of Sonny Smith, whether he’s playing in the Sunsets, working on solo stuff or writing tunes for theater productions, he’s been great. But, as of late, he’s turned his attention to Rocks in Your Head Records, his new label. Today we’re happy to introduce you to the label’s newest signee, the Gonks! The band’s described as a Shangri Las meets Tronics, though here we’re flirting with more of the Tronics experimental side; the band is led by teenage wiz Ava Lynch. We get a little horn blast working over some heavy percussive moves. But, just as you think the song’s a one-note wonder, it kicks in right at the 30 second mark. You get this jangling bit of guitar, sort of drawing on that sunny California surf vibe; I love how a second guitar comes in and sort of dances atop the first. But don’t you worry, Five Things You Didn’t Know About the Gonks is filled with great lyrics, but we figured this was the best way to introduce you to the band! Look for the LP this Friday!

Ride Off Into the Weekend with Sonny Smith

Sonny Smith is a songwriter who I adore. I’ve picked up everything he’s been involved in, from solo work to theater soundtracks to Sonny and the Sunsets. Today he’s announced his new album, Rod for Your Love, under his own name. It definitely wears that California-vibe; he manages to always carry an effortless cool. His press for the album promises a ‘fun, guitar-driven’ record, which could benefit us all. Toe tapping and innate hooks? Yea, that’s what Sonny’s great at. Stream the new video below; the LP drops on March 2nd via Easy Eye.

New Earth Girl Helen Brown Music

Now that the Sandwitches have called it a day, it’s time for Earth Girl Helen Brown (Heidi Alexander) to shine. She just announced a seasonal series, Mercury, to celebrate our celestial friends, calling in help from friends such as Ty Segall and Sonny Smith to flesh out the release. Our first listen is a pretty stellar one, with equal parts playful bounce and soulful harmonies. You’ll be tapping your toes while horns and gang vocals back up Alexander’s voice; it’s hard not to fall in love with this tune from the moment it kicks in. Empty Cellar Records will release Mercury on April 14th with proceeds going to various charities aimed at preserving the Earth.

More Sonny & The Sunsets


So we’ve already given you some hype over this new Sonny & The Sunsets album, Talent Night at the Ashram, that’s coming out February 17th via  Polyvinyl Records, but when Sonny Smith gives you another tasty track to jam to, it’s really hard not to share the love. The song below, “Happy Carrot Health Food Store,” is quite long, but by no means boring. Sonny & The Sunsets have seven minutes of quirky rock and roll for you in their classic style, which is anything but classic. Have a listen and get psyched for the new album which you can preorder right here.  

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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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New Album from The Memories

memorieI’ve got some tunes from the Memories; I like the band well enough, I just feel like they could do a bit more.  But, it looks like that time has finally come, as the band are readying a new album that’s been worked over by Sonny Smith, who I trust above many others.  There’s already a subtle R&B production to the tune, while the band maintains their approach to brevity in their songwriting; it sort of reminds me of Girls early on…you know, when that band meant something. Look for the band’s new LP Hot Afternoon next month from Burger Records.

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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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Sonny Smith – One Act Plays

Rating: ★★★★☆

Sonny Smith is most well-known, at least in the Interwebs for his work with the Sunsets, but the songwriter also has a few plays under his belt, although they’re probably more apt to be performed in song.  Luckily, the good people over at Secret Seven Records have released One Act Plays, a recording of songs/plays that Sonny recorded back in 2006 for a play called The Dangerous Stranger. 

Musically, it’s sort of what you expect from Sonny Smith, though it’s him stripped down to his bare bones, naked in front of the listener, as a true performer would be.  His voice in these recordings closely resembles Bill Callahan, which is fitting seeing as he’s playing the role of storyteller in these tunes.  But, he’s also got a lot of help from his friends such as Neko Case, Jolie Holland and Mark Eitzel; having all those guests on one record alone makes One Act Plays worthy of your purchase…and listening.

Thematically, Sonny admits to dealing with issues about family and redemption, and he also gives a nod to Sam Shepard.  But, despite the well-developed characters (as much as one can in one act), Smith perhaps should acknowledge the great job he did turning these acts into actual songs, so much so that you can get lost in the songs themselves.  My favorite is probably “The Stick-Up” just because it’s so stripped down, and the I chuckled each time the mention of stage directions comes into play; you don’t often get stage directions turned into actual lyrics.  It’s odd, but in providing musical accompaniment, the characters are humanized, which is precisely what a good playwright would hope to do.  You’ll even find “The Stick-Up (Part Two)” wrapping up the record, in case you feel like Sonny left you without a proper ending. Just remember, “when you shoot somebody, there ain’t no going back.”

Honestly, this isn’t a listening experience for everyone out there.  But, there’s definitely an audience for this, as Stephin Merritt can attest. While I enjoy the music quite a bit, I appreciate the combination of literary elements being thrust into the foreground.  For instance, the dialogue in “The Terrible Truth” brings to life a conversation between two men, who appear to be friends.  It begins in a call-and-response manner, as a dialogue would appear on stage, but there’s a moment when the vocals unite, and it’s such an emotional moment that your body can’t help but tingle just a bit; then it ends.  Like much of the songs, they’re all a separate entity or chapter, but they fit together, united by theme and song.  Only Sonny Smith seems capable of doing such a thing.  Find one song to love, or love them all, but if you love the theatre and you love music, then pick yourself up a copy of One Act Plays.


Download:Sonny Smith – The Stick-Up [MP3]

You can order the LP directly from Secret Seven 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.

New Sonny and the Sunsets

I’m not sure quite how Sonny Smith manages everything he does, and still manages to make most if downright enjoyable.  Between making album art for fictional bands he’s created, not to mention the music, then an EP with his friends in the Sandwitches, and now he’s back with his group’s own new record, Hit After Hit, which comes out April 12th on Fat Possum.  This track has the more stripped down country feel that the latter half of the group’s last release contained.  In the meantime, I’m sure that Sonny’s got more in the works we don’t quite know about yet, but I’ll happily be satisfied with this here song.


Download: Sonny & the Sunsets – I Wanna Do It [MP3]