Staff pick: Sonny & the Sunsets get political on funky new album

Joel Oliphint

Over the course of six LPs, Sonny Smith hasn't shied away from any number of personal topics. On 2012'sLongtime Companion, he cast off Sonny & the Sunsets' slacker-pop sound to make a country-fried record about the end of a 10-year relationship. In 2013,Antenna to the Afterworld dealt with the murder of a close friend and psychic contact with another friend who died.

On the recently releasedMoods Baby Moods (Polyvinyl), the San Francisco band tackles the less-personal but more-controversial topic of police violence in "White Cop on Trial." "Standing in the courthouse, getting pictures taken/ What will the jury say?" says Smith, who then sings the jury's part: "'We have found him not guilty cuz we are insane/ blah blah blah blah blah blah we are crazy.'" While the lyrics make it sound like a down-with-authority,punk-rock screamer, the track actually has an unnervingly playful, bouncy beat that mimics the tragically routine, everyday nature of these police-involved shootings.

Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus producedMoods Baby Moods, which could have made the album sound more or less like a Tune-Yards record, but Garbus' touch is light here. Sonny & the Sunsets' casual, kitchen-sink vibe remains intact, with some dashes of funk ("Moods") and plenty of the band's oddball quirks, like a spoken-word outro of alien voices in the otherwise Mac DeMarco-esque "Modern Age."

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