Sundowner - Four One Five Two
Chris McCaughan of The Lawrence Arms has taken a nice acoustic turn with this sideproject, Sundowner. Though these twelve tracks sound more or less like his original band unplugged, the material is saved from being stale by the cello, keyboard, and backup voice stylings of Jenny Choi as well as the electric guitar of Eli Caterer and bass/additional backup vocals by Neil Hennessey, also of The Lawrence Arms.
A stripped down approach and typical Lawrence Arms lyrics combined with content dealing with depression and alcohol abuse, Four One Five Two is a pleasant take on McCaughan's usual writing style. While slightly predictable, a softer, sweeter approach allows a more casual listener to experience the imagery and mourning of the lyrics, all with the warm texture of poppy, vaguely folkish guitars. Speaking of texture, the record is conspicuously lacking in percussion, relying instead (like many of your standard acoustic acts) on the use of the acoustic guitar as a rhythm instrument, with electric guitar and occasional touches of organ layering on top for a soothing, wistfully pensive atmosphere.
Easily my favorite tracks are "This War is Noise," a gentle but energetically poppy number that nicely epitomizes all of the aforementioned qualities, and "Midsummer Classic," a sweet, sad, almost ballad with a lonely Appalachian riff that is worth hearing for any fan of music, in addition to the line: "And underneath this crooked moon, I can smell the night begin to bloom." The album has a fault, as barebones music will, of sounding mildly formulaic, but the sound created with said formula is pleasing enough that this objection becomes negligible. Four One Five Two is a catchy, darkly optimistic picture of life painted by a veteran continuing on what he knows, and if Sundowner is the formula McCaughan uses to get his point across, that's just fine.
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