Sonny and the Sunsets
Hairdressers From Heaven
(Rocks In Your Head Records)
First impressions are hard. No matter who you are or what you do, that introduction, that opening mission statement, faces the tall task of initially being the full summary of you in a person’s mind. Hairdressers From Heaven is the first release on Sonny Smith’s Rocks In Your Head Records, and as such is faced with this tall task. Smith returns from a brief solo excursion to rejoin his trusty Sunsets and record something of ‘greatest hits’ of Smith’s past, relatively isolated experiments with sound. From the indie folk pop of Tomorrow Is Alright to the funk of Moods Baby Moods and everything in between, everything he’s ever done is acknowledged in some way, big or small. What results is the most varied and dynamic Sunsets album to date, which is all the more impressive considering that it’s also the shortest at only 27 minutes.
Opener “A Bigger Picture” right away introduces the listener to Smith’s unique charms and flair for the deceptively odd, flirting with both sunshine pop and pub rock with its second huge uplifting chorus of “I’m painting a painting of you and me / Hot dog buns and ding dongs on the beach / Let’s be free” followed by a guttural chain of Springsteen-esque “Baby, baby!”s backed by chiming acoustic guitar and piano chords. “Ghost Days” follows and is largely a re-visitation of the supernatural neo-psychedelia of 2013’s Antenna to the Afterworld, but far less saturated, with a harder edge akin to the garage rock on Hit After Hit and a piercing boogie funk riff, filtered through guitar rather than the synths that largely dominated Moods Baby Moods. The synths instead come in to color “Another Life, Another Body”‘s shambling folk, followed by the ramblin’ “Searchin'”. This game of mix and match runs through the whole album, with only exceptions being “Take a Long Walk Down the Long Corridor” (a rock solid, straightforward country tune calling back to Longtime Companion) and the Middle-Eastern flavored instrumental “The Man Without a Past” (which maybe kinda could’ve worked on Talent Night at the Ashram but probably not really). Jumping around between and blending such varied styles without the album feeling wildly disjointed requires a very precise vision on the production, and per usual with Sunsets projects, it was realized (this time with help from the Shins’ James Mercer and Yuuki Matthews (the latter of whom also had a hand on our favorite album of year and the great, recent Two Meters EP)).
It’s hard to say if Hairdressers From Heaven is the Sunsets’ best record to date (we’d probably still give the edge to Antenna), but it’s probably the band’s definitive album. There’s no more holistic picture of who the Sunsets are and what they do, and as such, as the first release on their front-man’s new label, it’s hard to imagine a better first impression for what Rocks In Your Head Records has in store.
Favorite tracks: “Someday I’d Like to Be an Artist”, “Ghost Days”
Rating: Strongly Recommended
You can purchase Sonny and the Sunsets’ Hairdressers From Heaven here.