Sonny and the Sunsets: Hit After Hit

Sonny and the Sunsets
Hit After Hit
(Fat Possum)

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Searching for that perfect summer album? An album with a carefree and candid style, boasting relaxed but technically proficient grooves that make you feel as if you should be riding along the main drag in your convertible with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in your sleeve?

Good news, your search is over.

Sonny and the Sunsets’ second album Hit After Hit, combines lead singer Sonny Smith’s songwriting aptitude – his vast writing repertoire includes short films, plays, short stories and newspaper columns – and his straightforward and smart lyrics to create a song lineup that is inventive and intelligent, a fresh take on classic sounds. Smith’s voice exudes coolness, suggesting a confidence that is understated yet understood. He recognizes the limits of his vocal range and writes melody lines that suit his fantastically quirky – in a Buddy Holly kind of way – voice.

With Smith’s expressive voice set against a backdrop of simple and effectively repetitive back-up vocals, Sonny and the Sunsets have created a sway-inducing, get-stuck-in-your-head kind of album. Influenced by surf rock, doo-wop, classic rock and a bit of gospel thrown in for good measure, this album satisfies an assortment of musical tastes. Lyrically, Smith’s tone oscillates from confidence to pander to resignation, though rooted in sincerity throughout. He intertwines bold and mischievous expressions with more brooding, wistful sentiments, entreating the listener to accompany him on what seems like a music joyride.

Infused with infectious vamping and harmony-filled back-up vocals, “Home and Exile” sounds like something you would hear a choir singing at a spiritual revival (or at least, that’s what I gather from what I’ve seen in the movies). But not just any choir; think classic rock meets indie meets gospel. Confused? Don’t be. Even those without any inkling of religious penchant are sure to feel moved by a certain spirit when they discover this gem of a song. Sonny sermonizes with the deftness of a seasoned preacher, while the Sunsets lend an authenticity to his message with their lively echoes.

An appeal for keeping one’s sense of adequacy intact, the enjoyably saccharine “Pretend You Love Me” is a plea for restoring one’s pride, even if only to continue a fruitless charade. Smith legitimately pays tribute to a time when love songs were honest and hopeful, comforting in their naivety. You can almost see the couple slow dancing – she with her perfectly-coiffed bouffant and he with his dapper suit – in the high school gym, confident in their sophomoric devotion to one another.

Musically speaking, Sonny and the Sunsets are sure to satiate the listener’s appetites and please their palettes. Hope you’re hungry.

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