Sonny & the Sunsets, Antenna to the Afterworld

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 06.11.13 in Reviews

Antenna To The Afterworld

Sonny & The Sunsets

About three years after Sonny Smith unveiled his ambitious “100 Records” project, it’s only become a better way to understand the Sonny & the Sunsets frontman’s music. As part of that effort, the San Francisco garage-pop singer came up with 100 fictitious bands, wrote songs for all of them and had friends design matching record covers. Even as Smith has continued to put out the songs under his own name (100 Records Vol. 3 arrived in January), his discography with the Sunsets has lived up to that mix of innocence and chutzpah. Whether the low-key jukebox fare of 2011′s Hit After Hit or the country-steeped heartache of 2012′s Longtime Companion, the Sunsets’ songs have the nonchalant reach of ideas an especially precocious teenager might dream up in a bedroom. They’re made real, and occasionally transcendent, by consistently solid execution.

Embracing spacey synth grandeur while still serving up low-key garage-pop pleasures

Antenna to the Afterworld, synth-glazed space-rock inspired by an allegedly successful visit to a psychic medium, has every appearance of being the Sunsets’ first actual record to match the conceptual grandeur of “100 Records.” Spoken-word narration? Check. Sci-fi themes? Check. Happily, though, Antenna lacks the portentousness such a description might imply, swapping it for another set of the scuffed singalongs you’d expect from the ever-burgeoning S.F. scene. “Dark Corners” has the mellow ambience of Kurt Vile, and “Natural Acts” veers off into noisy flutter, but neither strays far from the deceptively ramshackle approachability of romantic strummer “Path of Orbit,” chugging fortune-teller reminiscence “Palmreader” or, especially, the scary-catchy “Mutilator.” Elsewhere, “Void” recasts a twangy Longtime Companion lope as herky-jerk new wave. And falling in love with an android who bleeds “Green Blood” has never sounded so endearing. “Too Young to Burn,” from 2010′s Tomorrow Is Alright, remains Sonny & the Sunsets’ signature number, but they could’ve just as plausibly titled this fine album Hit After Hit (After Hit).