Origin: Danville, California
Watching the sunset is a bittersweet experience. One can feel many different feelings rushing through them as they stare at the massive star that brings life to our little, isolated corner of the universe. As it slowly and gracefully dips below the horizon we, as humans, are presented with a very direct challenge to our understanding of our daily lives. In simplest terms, watching the sunset is an existential experience that, under certain circumstances, can verge on spiritual. Though this may not be the intent of The Sound of Sunsets, it is certainly what I take away from their eponymous debut album.
The Sound of Sunsets is the work of San Francisco Bay Area musician Zack Hunter. The first thing that gleams off of this album is the quality of the production. Recorded, mixed and mastered over the course of 3 months in Hunter's bedroom during a busy final semester at college, the smoothness of these tracks is pretty impressive. From a casual listen, the album could be derided as a collection of similar, easy-listening songs; but that would be giving very little credit to what is a valiant first effort by a young indie musician making his introductory wave in the indie scene. Rather, the album carries a consistent theme of searching for hope and meaning in a dark reality, much like the existential crisis brought upon by staring up at the starry sky at night, or by watching the sunset for that matter. Just as these crises tend to carry a certain spiritual weight to them, so too does The Sound of Sunsets. One of Hunter's writing inspirations is his Christian faith and it is clear on some level in many of the songs on the album. It is important to note that this is by no means Christian worship music; the songwriter's faith is simply an important aspect to his emotional experience and so it is reflected in his lyrics.
SoS sounds like an indie collaboration between The Fray and Iron and Wine, with some songs resembling one more than the other. Two tracks that really stand out on the album and also demonstrate the sound that Hunter has crafted are "Stumble" and "Around Me." The former sounds like it could have been taken off of The Fray's How to Save a Life. It leads with haunting and innocent guitar picking and finishes with the notes of a gentle piano. "Around Me" falls on the Iron and Wine side of the SoS spectrum. Hunter's vocals are soft and almost whispered as he taps into a feeling of restlessness: "Is this the same, or is it different? Why can't I live a life consistent?" These two tracks act as the cornerstones of the album in that they establish the two sounds that SoS seeks to coalesce, though they are also distinct sounds unto themselves, both vocally and instrumentally. This combination works very well for the kind of vibe that SoS works to create.
The Sound of Sunsets is nothing revolutionary but it is a great piece of work from a new artist entering the scene with an interesting musical voice. The tone that this first album has set for Hunter and his future work is a promising one. As one listens to the album, great potential seems to have a pulse just beneath the surface. SoS' sophomore effort is definitely something to look forward to if this early work is any indication.
Crashing Symbols reviews are regularly accompanied by a number rating out of 5. However, given that this is the debut work of a local indie band, I have chosen to abstain from this black and white standard in favor of letting the review speak for itself, along with the sample tracks below.
The Sound of Sunsets - "Stumble"
The Sound of Sunsets - "Around Me"
The debut album from The Sound of Sunsets is available for purchase now in the iTunes Store.