REVIEW: Sunglow - Great Time of Day

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Laura Kerry

Sometimes genre speaks to musical history; bands can be post-this or neo-that. Other times, genres are giant catch-alls, like indie or alternative. In some cases, they describe a very specific feature of their performers (think hair metal).

The genre most frequently ascribed to Sunglow is “weird pop”—and that's just plain descriptive. The artist, Savannah-born, Chicago-based Daniel B. Lynch, makes pop that’s weird. Ever since his instrumental electronic debut album Jalopy (2012), he's been developing a perfect formula that merges sunny, danceable grooves with mischievous experimentation. Now, in his third full-length, Great Time of Day, Sunglow proves he's honed his craft, continuing to mix strong songwriting with a knack for strangeness.

Though Great Time of Day includes the strong vocal melodies that Sunglow began to play with in his second album, 2014’s Nothing Doing, the greatest force in the LP is its various rhythms. Lynch started experimenting with percussion as a kid, and the experience shows. Throughout the album, his varied beats—quick and nervous, deep and booming, steady and danceable, syncopated and complex—make up the backbone of his music. Emphasized by rigid structures and unfaltering repetitions, deep and reverberating bass, and lighter synth accents for balance, these rhythms give you something to sink your teeth into (or move your body to) in most of the tracks.

But for every danceable groove, Great Time of Day has an equal amount of grime. Despite his buoyant beats, Sunglow’s music often feels mired in something darker and grungier. In “Tenneco,” though the high ringing that begins the song on a near-painful note gels into funky bass-led jam, it never escapes those eerie undertones; in “Gross Me Out,” bright ‘80s synths push against deep, aggressive bass and layered, effect-heavy vocals that are equal parts playful, weird, and menacing; and in “So So Strange,” the captivating beat marches on with an almost ominous repetition, inviting odd voices to dance in and out over it. “Dunno,” with its chorus that repeats “I dunno anything,” is like a bubble gum-tinted dream (or nightmare) imagined while drifting off on a psychiatrist’s couch.

Sunglow makes music filled with contradictions—bone-dry electronic beats and liquid, reverb-heavy synths; scratchy, oddball vocal effects that alter catchy melodies; retro synths and contemporary production; pop catharsis and post-punk anxiety. In his new album, all of these opposites attract, merging into a unique sound that is weird and off-kilter, but inviting and immersive. Great Time of Day is weird pop—and it’s the best of it.

Album out now on Furious Hooves: http://bit.ly/2wN62Nl