Saturday, February 5, 2022

CD Odyssey Disc 1537: Sun June

Welcome back to the CD Odyssey after a week where I had a few chances to socialize (safely) with friends I am feeling a bit more energized and ready to face the world. This next album didn’t quite make my top ten albums of 2021 but I’m confident putting it in at #12 (you may recall my top 10 list goes to 11).

Disc 1537 is…. Somewhere

Artist: Sun June

Year of Release: 2021

What’s up with the Cover? “Somewhere” there is a home with this piece of art is on the wall, and guests come to visit and nod appreciatively and sip chardonnay. That somewhere just isn’t here. I think it looks like hotel art – the kind where I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a ship or one of those close ups of the branches of a maple tree.

How I Came To Know It: I read a review of this about a year ago on Pitchfork magazine. Pitchfork didn’t love it (gave it a 6.8) but I’m often more interested in what the album might sound like over whether the reviewer loved it. Here I was intrigued enough to check for myself. And well, I liked it – more than Pitchfork, as it turns out.

How It Stacks Up: This is my only Sun June album, so it can’t stack up.

Ratings: 4 stars

Sun June’s “Everywhere” snuck up on me a bit. Yeah, I was expecting some kind of indie pop experience, and I got one, but as I dove in I just kept discovering new aspects to hear the record, each of them enjoyable in their own way.

It started with the vocals as it admittedly often does with me. Laura Colwell spends most of the record in her higher register, and her head voice has a soft power to it that immediately draw you in. The songs have a dreamy quality, and Colwell’s vocals are the current of air that lifts you up and lets you float along on those dreams.

Then I started noticing the guitar, which is very eighties. It reminded me a bit of the Edge and at other times Robert Smith. I could be wrong on the specifics, but you can see guitarists Michael Bain and Stephen Salisbury are drawn to that big echoing eighties guitar sound. High string plucks diffusely ring through the song’s quieter moments in a way that will make you clutch your heart and sigh with all the goddamned emotion of it all.

The basslines and drums are simple but perfectly complementary to the song, and the arrangements give them both moments to shine without getting excessive (i.e. no bass solos). Colwell also adds keyboard flourishes at just the right moment, providing variety when you might be expecting guitar.

The first half of the record is stronger, and “Bad With Time”, “Everything I Had” and “Singing” are a glorious 1-2-3 punch to get things rolling. Actually, ‘punch’ would give you the wrong impression, because these songs all have a meandering quality, that don’t get to a point so much as wander down a path.

The songs are often presented as the narrator speaking to someone, but despite all that implied interaction they are at their core introverted tunes. The course of the dialogue is the window into something deep and private within the narrator. It might not be better represented than how that third song, “Singing” ends with a final offering of, “I don’t want to fight/I just want to drive home.” The line makes me see her clearly in the passenger seat, head against the inside of the window, rain streaming down the outside.

The production on the record is very rich, and I thought I wasn’t going to like all that sound, but everything is so expansive that the notes and instruments dissolve into one another rather than rubbing shoulders. The melodies are written for a slow sway, and the production and arrangements honour that need. It is good music for the rain, whether you’re sitting angry in a car, or walking carefree down a sidewalk.

On every listen “Somewhere” left my feeling more chilled out than I was when I started. Some might find the experience sleepy instead, but for me on each listen another aspect of the music unfurled for me, like a waking dream. It was downright therapeutic.

Best tracks: Bad with Time, Everything I Had, Singing, Bad Girl, Seasons

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