4 out of 5 stars
Look no further for your new perfect Sunday morning album. Steve Gunn’s sixth solo effort handily fills that bill.
The accomplished guitarist turned indie singer/songwriter finds his leisurely, luscious groove on the opening title track and maintains it, with a few tweaks, for the next 45 minutes. Subtle electric and acoustic guitars dovetail and interweave along with twinkling piano and hushed percussion all led by Gunn’s natural, organic vocals.
The effect is like sinking into a cumulous cloud of sound. It floats and drifts through a diaphanous haze that’s calming, relaxing yet never bland. From Mary Lattimore’s sublime, ghostly, plucked harp that leads off “Sugar Kiss,” the disc’s lone instrumental, to the synthesizer, treated guitar and barely audible marimba and baritone saxophone that underlie the swirling qualities of “Protection,” Gunn finds his sweet spot and digs in.
Credit also should be shared by co-producers/multi-instrumentalists Rob Schnapf and Justin Tripp, who help create the gossamer audio atmosphere where these songs thrive. It’s likely that any description of Other You will include the adjective “dreamy” and for good reason. The tracks set up that vibe, enhanced by Gunn’s wistful vocals and lyrics like, Pass the open window/Slowly count the days/Slip through a doorway/Out into clear blue space from “The Painter” that imply moods and feelings rather than specifically articulating them.
Despite the overall pensive style, these tunes revel in melodies that feel lived in and deliberate. Influences from The Go-Betweens to The Church, both in Gunn’s contemplative vocals and the music’s easy flowing strains, are bands whose somewhat similar approaches may help decide whether this is something you’d gravitate to. There are jazzy touches in the lovely “Good Wind” where Juliana Barwick’s backing vocals provide angelic nuances as Gunn sings Be right there you’re born again, you know you can be found/Which one you wanna try/Pictures in your mind.
It’s the last line—pictures in your mind—that best describes the effect Other You has on the audience. Steve Gunn presents the pallet and lets the audience paint with its own images.
It will likely take a few spins to define the songs since they are pieces of a whole that marinate in a similar ethereal stew. A good pair of headphones also enhances the experience. But in any format Other You is a collection where Steve Gunn summons you to soak into its tones, keeping the listener philosophically and sonically inspired.
It’s a release you’ll want to live with for a while, and not just on Sunday mornings.