“…this is not an album of incredible studio production, mass-multi-tracked instrumentation, auto-tuned, top ten hit record bullshit. But who the fuck would want that?”
For anyone who doesn’t know, Sundowner is the acoustic side-project of Chris McCaughan, guitarist and singer of the band Lawrence Arms. I was skeptical of using this as an opening line, I didn’t want to give the impression that this was just a side-project and that without the Lawrence Arms link, Sundowner would be nothing. Oh contraire, Sundowner is by all means a project to be taken very seriously, and this second release only continues to clarify that point.
The album has quite a peculiar start, the song The Flicker, is very sombre and not one you would expect to be chosen as an opener. It’s a good song, just one that seems odd to begin with. Less than three minutes in and it is obvious the lyrical talents of McCaughan have not diminished in the slightest. It becomes clear at the end of the song why this was chosen, as it builds up and slips sublimely into Araby by way of a classic ‘1, 2, 3, 4.’
As far as progression goes, there is nothing intensely different from the first Sundowner record. If anything, this record has been given even more of a stripped down feel, with minimal instrumentation giving it a real home recording effect. Some people might find this a little strange. I personally, think it’s fucking great, as the album focuses far more on the lyrics, vocal melodies and guitar tracks, making this a very personal record with a far more natural flow than previous effort, Four, One, Five, Two.
Making this record was no half-arsed process. Whilst listening through the album, it is clear that a lot of work has gone into the vocals specifically. Both the main vocal and back up sounds have pushed the boundaries for Sundowner. Not so much in terms of range, with a very comfortable array of notes coming from the mouth of this Chicago born singer/songwriter, but more in terms of rhythm. The closing track, What Beadie Said, is a perfect example of the entire albums curious but effective motion.
As said before, this is not an album of incredible studio production, mass-multi-tracked instrumentation, auto-tuned, top ten hit record bullshit. But who the fuck would want that? If you look for deeply intricate lyrics, kick-ass sing along melodies and some good acoustic rocking, then this album might be just what you’ve been looking for.
Check out Whales and Sharks and also Mouth Of A Tiger, personal faves of mine.