Sun Kin


Sun Kin // Miserable chillers - Adoration Room

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Will Shenton

When Kabir Kumar (Sun Kin) and Miguel Gallego (Miserable chillers) first met, they found that they had a lot in common: both were pop musicians, both were first-generation children of immigrants, and both had "fears about making art in a time where a tidal wave of history seems poised to crash down on us." But perhaps the most striking similarity between the artists is the playful sincerity they bring to their songwriting, allowing them to paint optimistic counterpoints to those anxieties. It wasn't long before they became long-distance collaborators, and Adoration Room is a sprawling, occasionally tongue-in-cheek debut for the pair.

Awash in everything from danceable synths to psychedelic guitars, Kumar and Gallego's voices and lyrical styles are naturally complementary. "I keep inviting you to things by accident / I swear this app was made to make me feel bad," Kumar sings on the wonderfully theatrical "Ringing," not long after Gallego gives us the vignette of "I thought of you at the bitcoin exchange / When we split a cab across town to the AMNH" on "Natural History." These little parodies of modern, digital life walk a tragicomic line, simultaneously seeming to mock their ridiculousness and empathize with the narrator. Maybe social media is a dumb thing to stress about, but it doesn't make the anxiety any less real.

Part of the appeal of Adoration Room is its tendency towards nostalgic reference, anchoring its contemporary woes in the comforting styles of the past. Miserable chillers' "Jamie" drips with Bowie-esque melodrama, while Sun Kin channels countless sultry, soulful crooners on opener "Veena." The list of homages and influences is too long to count, and the result is a sort of semi-satirical collage—some of the delivery is definitely goofy, but it's executed with the loving care of musicians who grew up steeped in the sounds they're channeling.

Replete with sometimes subtle, sometimes explicit nods to revolutionary politics ("Adoration, if all the work goes away and we're still / Paying for the leisure of the vain / Be patient, hope the guillotines have not been rent / Help me sharpen blades," Kumar sings on "Teri Ankhen"), the album regularly hints at a more hopeful vision of the future. But no matter how the tension between the socialist clarion call of "Teri Ankhen" and the dystopian, techno-libertarian tableau of "UBI" shakes out, Sun Kin and Miserable chillers are dedicated to at least one immediate material gain: irresistible pop.

Pre-order Adoration Room on Bandcamp, out 7/27

TRACK REVIEW: Sun Kin - Under Standing Waves

Laura Kerry

At its start, Oakland-based band Sun Kin’s “Under Standing Waves” is all new-age reflection. Beginning softly, the song emerges with ethereal synths reverberating quietly as echoing vocals sing with restraint, “She has gone to bed just in case you come to mind / Her will to fight’s at rest until she wakes up after the night.” As new instrumental voices join in the first 30 seconds, the song becomes increasingly spacey and abstract.

The pure abstraction doesn’t last long; soon, earthy bass and drums enter, grounding the track in a funkier, psych-rock feeling. As new sounds emerge, they progress further in this direction until singer Kabir Kumar—now sounding clearer than he did in his opening croon—escalates into a poppy yowl that asks, “Can you FaceTime?” Set against strange, otherworldly synths, even this intrusion of a contemporary and concrete image doesn’t fully escape the reflective haze. The line comes across as a play on words, as likely to be interpreted as “can you face time?” Even when talking about an app, it remains in the realm of abstraction.

The song’s sounds also remain, for the most part, mystical. Despite the grounding elements and the clear vocals, the overall effect in “Under Standing Waves” is a floating, unearthly feeling; its momentum comes from alternating buildups and releases, and not pop structures. In the span of five minutes, Sun Kin takes you on an intriguing and transcendental journey.