Sun June - Years - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sun June - Years

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2018-06-15

Austin Texas quintet Sun June calls the style of music on their debut album “regret pop”. While I’m not sure I am fully qualified to define just what that is, I can tell you that the album, entitled  “Years”, doesn’t create any such regret in the listener. The band creates a quiet and soulful sound that mixes hints of jazz, folk, and dream pop to create a melodic ten tunes that will soothe the savage beast, or anyone just wanting to take in finely crafted music without endangering their speaker system.

Band co-founders Laura Colwell and Stephen Salisbury handle the songwriting, and it would be easy to characterize Sun June as entirely a Colwell driven entity. That would be a mistake. In addition to songwriting, she is the lead vocalist and keyboard player, so her influence is indeed strong, but the other four musicians in the group create a perfect background atmosphere for her upper register and elegant voice. Distant echoes of Joni Mitchell can be heard in the vocals, but Colwell has an intrinsic calming influence that is close to hypnotic.

Sun June has two exceptional guitar players in Salisbury and Michael Bain. Bain handles lead duties on the disc, and his raw talent shines through on several of the cuts. You won’t hear any head-banging, string shrieking solos from Mr. Bain, but his cool picking is a definite highlight.  Sarah Schultz drums for the band, and also nicely melds her voice with Colwell’s to create a double tracking effect when she joins in. Bass player Justin Harris collaborates with Schultz to create a rhythm section as solid as titanium alloy.

The first single from “Years” is called simply “Young”, and it is finely crafted enough to have earned the group a  quick tour of Italy and Europe after being heard by a prestigious Italian promoter. The song carries a steady rock beat and tasty guitar work that blends seamlessly with the vocal to create a tune ready for radio exposure on any continent. Schultz’s backing vocal work here is exquisite as well.

“Homes” allows Harris to show off his bass expertise before Schultz kicks in the beat. Bain and Salisbury add subdued but prominent guitar licks that allow Colwell to carry the song with her signature warble.

A personal favorite on an album with several candidates to choose from is “Baby Blue”. This one is the most uptempo offering and includes truly outstanding lead guitar work from Bain. Colwell’s vocal is deeper and stronger to offset the pounding foundation created by Harris and Schultz. While Salisbury puts out a steady rhythm guitar tapestry, Bain’s guitar solo in the middle of the song is a clinic on how to perform a beautiful and skillful performance without turning the amp to the extreme and flailing about. It is a perfect example of less being more.

A quick intermission in the center of “I’ve Been” again gives everyone a chance to show what they’re made of. Ethereal guitar work blends with steady drum and bass lines before Colwell’s dulcet tones stop the show for a brief listen. The song ends with all hands on deck and operating as tightly as five musicians can hope for. Pure professionalism at it’s best is on full display.

The dream pop genre is represented on the second half of “Apartments”, which starts as a slow and steady tune that eventually turns into an example of “angelic choir” sound that is unique to the album. Colwell’s keyboard work also is skillful and more apparent than elsewhere to raise the song to a higher level of beauty.

A whispery lead vocal carries “Records” for the first two and a half minutes before an instrumental interlude that is ambrosia for the ears finishes up the composition.

“Johnson City” infuses a bit of the “regret” portion of the music as the lyric calls “Just come home with me tonight / the sun don’t go down in Johnson City” to a passionate symphony of understated but impossible-to-ignore music.

As debut albums go, “Years” is an impressive beginning for a group that sounds like they have been playing together for most of their lives. The album was recorded at Estuary Recording Facility in Austin working with Evan Kaspar, and the mix of the record is as impressive as the music itself. It can not be an easy task mixing a vocalist who has a dominant, but not overpowering voice with four or five musical instruments so that something doesn’t get lost. Nothing does here, and everything is in perfect balance.

Sun June will be touring in 2019 and has locked up one of the coveted gigs at the world-renowned SXSW music festival in Austin next March. They have made a name for themselves in Austin’s eclectic and ever-growing music scene, and with “Years”, the rest of the world is quickly taking notice.

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