I need to start off with a public apology: I wanted to review this album over a year ago. I should have cleared the deck to work on this one. It’s such an incredible album and deserves your immediate attention. If you’re looking for an avant garde, exploratory, and expressive new folk album, please take a few moments to give Sunny War your attention.
The opening track “Shell” is essentially the title track. It’s about a man who has driven a woman mad and how she’s no longer herself, now a functional “shell of a girl.” The vocal is essentially the narrator, pulling the listener outside of the main characters. The bluesy guitar work and exceptional vocal style is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. It’s got a classic patina all while feeling beautifully “new.”
“Where the lost get found” is a genre defying track. The guitar and harmonica make it feel far more Americana than some of the other tracks on the album. The mature vocal style definitely gives the track a unique sound that you won’t hear in much other Americana right now. The following track titled “The Place” has an unconventional melody and a unique production mix. It can be a difficult to follow in places, but the avant garde flavor is sure to appeal to some listeners.
“Drugs are bad” might be one of the most direct arguments in a track. However, it’s not as trite as it might seem. The message of the song is more about medicine rather than street drugs. It’s about the effect of drugs on human systems. It’s a complex and convoluted track that will have you questioning much more than medicine. It’s really about society and the perspective that many folks have about the way things are. It’s an interesting choice to go with a unique beat for this one rather than more conventional folk timing and song structure.
The track “Soul Tramp” has a fascinating melody line and unconventional energy to it. The harmonies are really powerful on this one. Something about the overall sound feels like something from the discography of Rhiannon Giddens. The expressive vocal line is definitely the standout aspect of the track. The following “Rock n Roll heaven” is an interesting track. It’s decidedly not rock, yet it has these shades of early blues that marks one of the key contributors to what became rock music. It’s a kind of dark, rootsy energy. The lyrics are poetic, playing on the notion of living past age 27 when many rock legends die. It’s clever.
The penultimate track “The likes of you” has a haunting chord structure. In some places it’s a tad difficult to understand the lyrics, but the mood of the track is really engaging. The electric guitar hums along gently and nicely. The vocal dances over top of the guitar work. The final track “Xo” carries out the overall style of the album with a folk-influenced and experimental style. The rhythm on this track is really different than the rest of the album. It’s remarkable to hear the variety of styles that Sunny War is able to capture on this album.
If you’re looking for a genre-pushing, genre-defying folk-influenced album, then Sunny War is for you. If you think that “all folk sounds the same” you definitely need to incorporate some of Sunny War’s innovative and engaging musical stylings. I only wish that I had made this remarkable album a part of my personal rotation sooner. It’s really a captivating style that will surely stand out for a number of music fans in the 21st century folk revival.