Suns - Close Calls In The U.S. Space Program/The Howl And The Many
Record Label: Self released
Release Date: August 31, 2010
There's a lovely darkness to it; a black, staggered sort of beauty that surrounds the skin and bones of this music. It all feels sublime and bleak, but at the same time, lively and hopeful. That was a much eloquently worded version of how I actually felt when I saw this band for the first time. I remember it was April of 2010, I was finishing up a year of college in Charleston, IL at EIU and a friend and I drove down to Effingham, in Southern Illinois, to see and hang out with our friends in The Felix Culpa when unbeknownst to my friend and I, they were touring with a band called "Suns," which featured former members of Wax On Radio and They Found Me, They Named Me, a pair of personal favorites for me. What ensued following the first note on stage was a phenomenal performance by a band I had never heard of before, but in the coming weeks, I took my time to check the band out, and a little while after the band had released their dual EP up for free download, I immediately snagged a copy and reveled in their creation.
At first listen, Close Calls... and The Howl And The Many seem to be very close in relation to one another, musically, but it takes a few listens to realize the subtle changes throughout the tracks. Picking out a good album's subtleties is like finding hidden nuggets and belated symbolism in a good film; it takes time, repeated listens/viewings and a definite interest. From the very first track off of Close Calls In The U.S. Space Program, "You Are On," Suns sets the tone immediately by pouring a soft low key barrage of notes, and then hitting in with a full sonic impact. For a few lyrics, the music continues to flow, and build, and build, and then explode, but only for a second, before taking a step back to the verse and beginning it all over again. It's things like these that music so unique, not only in the particular genre but in general. There is a lost sense of urgency and yearn for creativity in music, whether anyone would like to admit it or not. Suns seems to have no problem continuing to prove that music still has life left in its fading heart, and that it's not all about serving up the same watered down material that we've heard before. The music feels pure, yet despondent and without a dark, very dark, yet still elated.
The second track, "Little Horn," is a ferocious melange of dissonant melodies with an upbeat backbone but a darker forefront. Track three, "Small Parts" has a like a calming, more buoyant feel that feature my favorite lyrics and lead vocal melody on the album; "..and riding down Milwaukee at 3 a.m./Whiskey and fireworks in the summertime. Even out of context, these lyrics send waves of resounding innocence and nostalgia. There's something so honest in the writing that connects so well. "Bright Lights" is one of the most ethereal, post-rock based songs on the album. It's slow and beautiful, ambient, blissful yet cheerful. It's one of the best songs on the album that is able to depict a wide range of emotions so well. The last track on Close Calls..., "Don't Do It," is quite possibly the most unique track on the whole EP. It's bluesy, sluggish and drunk; a perfect modern homage to the dirty, slow blues of generations past. It's a song you can sit in the car to in the middle of the night and get absolutely lost in. Singer, Mikey Russel bares his heart in this song, using very few lyrics, the emotion is greater than all the words in the world.
The second of the dual EP release, The Howl And The Many, while shorter, is equally as impacting. It starts off with "Everything Changes," a song whose strength lies in the bouncy percussive layering and the rapid changes from major to minor keys. It's a song that may confuse listeners because of its quick shifts and odd progression. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful track and a great way to separate itself from Close Calls... "Orange Peels" is one of the most upbeat, groovy feeling tracks on the record. It's fast paced and straight to the point, counter that with the slower, heavily key based, "Gladys" and Suns will continually prove they have a knack for throwing listeners for a loop. The last track, "Four Winds," is a slow, brooding conclusion that takes everything about all the songs we've heard so far and capitalizes on them. It's like a summary of all the work they've put in so far and it ends on a satisfying note. Literally.
Close Calls In The U.S. Space Program and The Howl And The Many are definitively dissimilar records with plenty of differences. The first is a dark, despairing record with a penchant for heart tugging emotions that feels like smoke in your lungs while the latter is a more upbeat and airy record that feels like a breath of fresh air. However, both albums can easily be seen as one release, and that is how I prefer to look at them. Close Calls... gives off the feel of a starting act, with "Don't Do It" acting as the cliffhanger; connecting to The Howl And The Many which feels slightly more triumphant, in a sense, and makes its mark as the final act, culminating in resounding admiration with the final drop of "Four Winds." However you shape it, Suns has released one of the best indie rock albums of 2010. As a record, it is great; intense, beautiful and rich. As a debut record, it's simply mind blowing. Through the ashes of great past bands comes a band that has an even bigger, more grandiose sound and even stronger emotional intentions. You may not know them today, but give it some time, you certainly will.