30 July 2011

I bought this on Amazon for less than a pack of cigarettes

Sonny & the Sunsets - Tomorrow is Alright (Fat Possum, 2010)
"I'd be writing, then I'd take a break, pick up my guitar and play, go back to typing, and found myself singing while writing." -(Sonny Smith to the SF Weekly, May 9 2007)
The above quote was made well before this record arrived, but it still carries over. Stay up all night listening to Tomorrow is Alright, and the next day at work the songs come out. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty listens. It doesn't matter because these songs hang around. A good portion of this phenomenon can be attributed to the timelessness of these tracks. Similar to the work of fellow San Franciscans, Girls, minus the heartbreaking true story, Sonny & the Sunsets work in a space that cannot be defined as past, present, or future.
Now, are these straightforward songs? The short answer is no. At times, the lyrics are akin to something out of a comic book. Tubes of death cream, a planet full of women, its not exactly a tidy package of relatable material. However, that isn't to say that this joint isn't loaded with hits. This album has lots of "la, la, las," and "ooh, ooh, ohs", and even some whistling. "The Houris" has some "na, na, nas" coupled with a painted picture of crows, sparrows, and bees that go buzz buzz buzz. There are all these little touches and flourishes, that no matter how small it's still enough to compel one to take another sip, light up a smoke, and be willing to move forward.
Research shows that Sonny himself has been around for much longer than I, but there are parts of this album that I hear and just cannot deny. On "Too Young to Burn", there's talk about sitting by the window watching the sun go down. That occurs in my apartment each and every night after I've come home from work to a half-finished cup of coffee. The speaker on "Stranded" likens himself to a dog wandering aimlessly and tossing out never-returned smiles. Again, this may as well be me on a Saturday in the city. At the risk of bogging down this review with a whole bunch of "I know exactly what he means!" moments, the comparisons will stop but the idea should be left on the table. While I am not a singer, songwriter, playwright, poet, artist, or oversee-er of ambitious projects, I can listen to one and in the process understand that everything is not impossible. In short, I can believe that tomorrow will be alright. I've written before about having no direction home, but now I live by myself so I have a home but I still need simple songs like this one to remind me that I'm not done yet.
I'm always quick to point out that pop music used to mean something good as opposed to shit, and with this record an addendum needs to be made. Pop music isn't always wanting to hold your hand, or love love love you too. It can be held back. It can be shackled. It can place you on the edge of the cliff, but instead of dancing you may just sway and have a cigarette.

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