Sonny Smith’s vocals on “Dark Corners,” the first single from Antenna to the Afterworld,Â are quite apt to the song’s title. Usually, there’s a sunny twang to them (no pun intended), even if the subject matter he’s singing about isn’t exactly joyous or, well, sunny. On “Dark Corners,” the effects have made it to where they sound monotoned, drone-like and somber. Â The verse “I walk on your streets, and the streets… they walk on me” narrate Sonny’s defeat and what seems to be a self-loathing; the war within himself. The San Francisco artist is slated to releaseÂ Antenna to the Afterworld on June 11, his second record through Polyvinyl,Â this year so there will be a wee bit of a wait until we can hear all of what Sonny has to offer this time around. As to whether it’s a translucent purple, or a solid purple the site doesn’t make clear. Listen to “Dark Corners” below and see what you think. Cheers!
Death? Afterworld? Android lovers dying in the streets bleeding green blood? Homeless girls? Dogs stranded here from other planets? What are Sonny & The Sunsets getting at on Antenna to the Afterworld, a fast-moving record of new wave synths and post punk beats?
The murder of a close friend of the band led Smith to think a lot about death and life after death. Shortly after, a visit to a psychic/medium brought Smith into contact with another friend who had died.
This encounter with the afterworld inspired many of the lyrics on Sonny & the Sunsets' new record. And what a strangely entertaining odyssey it turned out to be.
As a writer -- of songs, or plays, or short stories -- Smith has never limited himself to one style or theme. The restless trend of changing gears dramatically continues on Antenna to the Afterworld, which marks a total musical and narrative shift from last yearâ€™s Longtime Companion (a country record that chronicled Smithâ€™s break up).
On Antenna to the Afterworld, Smith likens himself to a space being visiting Earth using wry humor, gritty poetry, and a myriad of musical lenses fleshed out by drummer Kelley Stoltz's Joy Division-like beats, Ryan Browne's new wavish basslines, and Tahlia Harbour's deadpan vocals.
"I come from the planet of dogs / ... / And I walk on your streets / ... / and I can't wait to find / My little place in your weird world," Smith sings on opening track "Dark Corners," as the song's use of synthesizers lends the perfect sonic counterpart to the science fiction narrative.
His journey continues on â€śMutilator,â€ť where he enchants the listener with a vivid description of the titular womanâ€™s lair: â€śBack at her place, a half eaten steak on a plate / And an old melon rind and some torn up drapes / And on her bed of nails she makes me lie / â€¦ / Mutilator, you send shivers down my spine.â€ť
Later, â€śGirl on the Streetsâ€ť proves to be one of the most immediate and infectious songs found on Antenna to the Afterworld, as Smith pairs an upbeat, major key melody with a candid depiction of a homeless girl he observes while walking the streets of his native San Francisco.
And it wouldnâ€™t be a Sonny Smith-penned album without a reworking of a previously released song. Just like â€śPretend You Love Meâ€ť was transformed from a 50s doo-wop revamp (Hit After Hit) to a Dylan-esque country ballad (Longtime Companion), on Antenna to the Afterworld Smith sheds the ramshackle country rock skin â€śI See The Voidâ€ť wore on Longtime Companion and replaces it with a raucous high energy romp through classic Sunsets territory.
Soon after, the record closes with "Green Blood," a quasi-spoken word track that uses male-female call and response vocals to tell the tale of Sonny's affair with a spaceling. Though their love is ultimately doomed by their differences (and her cyborg husband), Sonny can't quite let her go.
"My antennas went deep into the afterworld / And I searched for her / Where the night is quiet / With star gleams / And comet trails," he narrates -- a beautifully composed conclusion to an (inter)stellar tale.
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