(Run For Cover/Keeled Scales)
3 out of 5 stars
Call it “dream pop” or what Sun June self-describes its music as which is “regret pop,” but there is little doubt the Austin based quintet’s languid music wouldn’t conform to anyone’s definition of rock. The eleven songs on the band’s second album stay on low boil as perfect vehicles for singer Laura Colwell’s airy, diffuse, often sexually charged, evocatively whispered vocals.
There are echoes of Mazzy Star, The Sundays and Cowboy Junkies in the group’s atmospheric, hypnotic playing on these delicate, some might say narcotic, slices of melancholia. Even though the songs are credited to founders Colwell and boyfriend/guitarist Steven Salisbury, it’s the singer’s languorous, floating voice that drives the act’s similarly placed sound. The rhythm section provides a backbone and even though Michael Bain is credited as lead guitarist, he isn’t exactly Jeff Beck burning up the fret board. Rather the five piece conjures a sumptuous, unhurried groove and hangs there for forty minutes.
The pensive music is a vehicle for haunting lyrics that examine love from the eyes of the participants who are caught up in the joy of newfound romance while somewhat leery and unsure about where it’s headed. On “Finding Out” Colwell sings, Lying on the bed/Yeah I know I started it/But I’m just finding out/Why you do it to me, summarizing the inherently hesitant nature of a relationship starting to bloom. The band wraps its musical arms around these concepts with soft and occasionally gently urging music that floats and hovers but never stings.
It’s all quite lovely yet especially engaging when reading the lyrics. That’s because Colwell’s feather-light vocals slur enough words for even an intent listener to want to clarify what she’s saying. Feelings seem to be questioned with “Are you the real thing? Honey I’m the real thing” as the band mirrors that query by playing soft and mildly probing music behind her. While there are choruses, they are subtle. These songs gracefully drift without trying to be anything you’ll sing along with on future listenings.
The adjectives of “dark,” “mysterious,” “sad,” “warm,” “gentle” and “sultry” appear in Sun June’s bio. They effectively capture its moody style. As the album progresses, the band doubles down on this approach, and by halfway through, the leisurely, dawdling nature of the songwriting gets repetitious if never quite lethargic. Sun June defines its enigmatic, shadowy sonic borders but never pushes beyond them, which causes the disc to occasionally lapse into tedious uniformity as it progresses.
Regardless, if you’re on board for a meditative journey about the vagaries of newfound love, it’s tough to beat Sun June’s literary, tender and often poetic vision; one that defines its relaxed musical footing early and doggedly sticks to it.