Release Date: Jun 26, 2012
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
In 2010, San Francisco songwriter Sonny Smith unveiled his 100 Records art installation, a sprawling project in which Smith adopted the personae of 100 fictional bands and wrote and recorded singles for each of them. Ranging from reggae to doo-wop, country to garage rock, the project was a decidedly ambitious undertaking, and Smith doesn’t seem to have quite shaken it from his psyche. Last year’s Hit After Hit marked a return to the low-key garage-pop Smith and his band the Sunsets had been accustomed to since their 2010 debut, Tomorrow Is Alright, reimagining some of Smith’s 100 Records cuts in the band’s own image.
Don’t let the name fool you. Despite the sticky-sweet melodies and breezy charm, there’s some darkness lingering underneath Sonny & the Sunsets’ wide-eyed pop. And it’s always been there, no matter what musical hat Sonny Smith tries on. Smith is the bandleader, in every sense of the word ….
Longtime Companion, the third LP from San Francisco garage-poppers Sonny and the Sunsets, came to be after main man Sonny Smith and his girlfriend of a decade parted ways. Breakup records tend toward the the maudlin and the oversharey, a place to air out all that dark-night-of-the-soul stuff over a couple of heartbroken chords. It's a loose template, to be sure, but it's all a far cry from the eternally bemused Smith's perma-grin.
When Sonny Smith's ten-year relationship started to hit the skids, he picked up his guitar and chronicled his eventual breakup with Sonny & the Sunsets' third record, Longtime Companion. To mirror the change in his personal life he also shifted sonically, eschewing his indie pop past to draw inspiration from one of the richest sources of heartbreak storytelling, country music. Joined by the Sunsets plus his country band the Fuckaroos, Smith toes the line between treading the dusty roads traveled before him by classic bands like the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers and contemporary performers like Neko Case and Jolie Holland (both of whom he's collaborated with earlier in his career) and honoring his ramshackle pop origins.
Sonny And The SunsetsLongtime Companion[Polyvinyl; 2012]By Jay Lancaster; June 27, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhen artists take their sound in a radically opposite direction, I can get behind it more often than not. For instance, when Mount Eerie dropped a few acoustic lullabies on Lost Wisdom and then turned around to release the towering and blackened Wind’s Poem a year later, it was hard to believe that the same artist made both albums. Yet they’re both brilliant records in their own right; neither sounds contrived, because despite the drastic genre shift, Phil Elverum still maintains a very distinct voice of his own on both albums.
Sonny & the Sunsets explore new genres like snakes shed skin. In the past, the imaginative San Francisco act, led by folksy everyman Sonny Smith, has successfully assumed the sounds of 50’s proto-rock, garage blues, doo-wop, and punk (not to mention Smith’s 100 Albums project, in which he created 200 songs by 100 fictitious bands). On their latest LP, Longtime Companion, Smith and Co.