Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Always eclectic but dependable in quality, the primarily guitar-based Sonny & the Sunsets have taken on country music, aliens, early rock & roll, psychic contact, garage rock, and screenplay inspirations, among other varied styles and subjects, even flirting with synths on their two prior albums. For their sixth long-player, Sonny Smith and gang enlisted tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus to produce, and look to '80s new wave and funk for sonic inspiration. Under threat of bleeping keyboards and drum machines, fans needn't worry that the band has shed their characteristically loose and lo-fi sensibility.
After last year's somewhat disappointing Talent Night at the Ashram, Sonny & the Sunsets have returned to the warped playfulness of their earlier releases with Moods Baby Moods. The band have always been genre-jumping shapeshifters, mixing it up with garage, melted psychedelia, doo-wop, and even country. Here, they stretch out and explore mutated forms of funk on 'Well But Strangely Hung Man', mix dubby post-punk with a string quartet on 'Modern Age', and sandwich a nod to the Suicide classic 'Ghost Rider' in-between synth-y post-punk and psych-tinted acoustics on 'Nightmares'.
Between his solo career and output with Sonny & The Sunsets, leading man Sonny Smith has seemingly maintained a two-pronged credo: follow your own twisted path, and maintain creative momentum like the graceful shark. The result is a truly multifaceted catalog, one that includes a collection of songs from 100 fictional bands, a dense sci-fi epic (2013’s Antenna to the Afterworld), and another LP repurposed from an abandoned short film (2015’s Talent Night at the Ashram). For the Sunsets’ latest LP, Moods Baby Moods, Smith pulled in an outside producer: tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus.
The Upshot: Sonny Smith goes disco? Call it warped all-American dreams in twitchy funk rhythms, abetted by friends and guest Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs). The endlessly inventive Sonny Smith dips into disco for this latest entry into sad sack sci fi oddity, wrapping warped all-American dreams in twitchy funk rhythms, and encountering hell in supermarkets, hospitals, beach sides and (naturally) other people. He’s aided by fellow eccentric Merrill Garbus, who produces, as well as Bay Area regulars Shayde Sartin (on all-important bass), Glenn Donaldson (under the aka Edmund Xavier) and Cold Beat’s Hannah Lew.