Sonny & The Sunsets, Tomorrow Is Alright
Warm, winning songs, charming and feather-light
For proper consumption of Sonny & the Sunsets' debut LP Tomorrow Is Alright, it is probably best to keep it tethered to the Earth with an anchor or a heavy stone. That's not to say that the album's 10 tracks are slight, exactly, but there is a certain level of casualness (one might go as far to call it "stoniness") that makes each song feel like it might just float away.
This is on purpose, of course. Frontman and mastermind Sonny Smith cut his eye teeth on the blues and has traveled to a number of American cities (and Costa Rica) picking up variations on the old pluck-and-mumble along the way. Everything in Sonny's world sounds temporary and transient, from the characters in his songs to the tossed-off gentle percussion that sneak in and out of the best tunes on the album. Event the title suggests a certain laid back quality that could be mistaken for apathy.
In reality, it's just a deep dive into Smith's worldview. The story-songs that inhabit Tomorrow Is Alright are all about weathering daily disappointments and disasters with a world-weary grace (and a banjo pluck or two). "When I threw a smile your way/ You act so cold," he sings on "Stranded" in a voice that recalls Stephen Malkmus' best impression of a guy who cares. Moments like that would devastate an emo frontman, but Smith just lets the "fa la las" take over, and buy the third verse he's tossing out a whole new batch of well-wishes. "So I leave this simple song/ I hope it don't keep you too long," he sings, somewhat defeated but always optimistic (because, of course, there are more "fa la las" to come).
For a band made up of such basic elements, they make their tracks sound awfully dense. There are hints of Beach Boys-ian orchestration in the album-opening "Too Young to Burn," while "Love Among Social Animals" rolls with Byrds-ian chugging. The surface slightness ensures that Tomorrow Is Alright will require multiple listens, but the narrative and sonic gems lurking below the shruggy vibe are well worth the tenacity. If the definition of cool is making it look like it doesn't matter, then Sonny & the Sunsets are Fonzie times a thousand.