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Sunny, no bluster

Sunset Hearts explode with wwwindswept
By NICK SCHROEDER  |  October 11, 2014


‘wwwindswept’ Seven-piece pop band Sunset Hearts’ second full-length album.

There’s no point in making music if you’re not being honest.

You’ll hear it in unequivocal terms on “I’ll Play it Wrong,” the opening track of Sunset Hearts’ rich and majestic second full length album wwwindswept: “I feel compelled to say / I wasn’t honest with you today,” sings Casey McCurry, as the song’s noirish bassline traces a confessional far more earnest than its genre has it pegged for.

At turns urgent, deadly sincere, and wonderfully playful, wwwindswept makes for an unsettlingly wild ride, seven mid-uptempo pop songs that dig deep into a subjective consciousness every bit as deep as the dense layers of sound this cluster of veteran musicians have composed.

And that’s just track one. There’s as much musical complexity in the excellent “Glenn Beck Comes Home” as there are amphetamines in its subject’s bloodstream, while “Things I Like to Believe” morphs from a celestial new wave track into something almost quasi-heavy, McCurry pleading “just tell me when I’m wrong / I’ll write a song…” After the slightly sluggish opening half of “When You’re All Alone,” in which McCurry’s typically direct economy of language gets a tad axiomatic and saccharine (“It’s like we’ve run out of words. / We don’t talk, we don’t know how.”), the band explode into an outro fit for an arena, a reminder that they’re one of the only bands in the state that could keep pace with a national dance outfit like Passion Pit.

Then the album’s back half hits even harder. “Runnin a Fuckin Business” is one of the most enjoyable tracks McCurry’s ever written, its compressed, Daft Punk-ish melody exploding into hooks, wiggly basslines, and…is that a Marx reference? Like New Order before them—the album’s cover art suggests they’re hardly a covert influence—Sunset Hearts might be considered more of a singles group than an album band, a notion which “Runnin a Fuckin Business,” its layers of richly woven melodies, would certainly attest. It plays again and again.

Yet “History is History” doesn’t let up, drummer Max Heinz’s kickdrum thuds coaxing the song toward launch as soft splashes of melodic keyboard notes splatter across the frame. Whittled down now to a seven-piece, the band balance the song’s tensions and joys beautifully, the airiness of its choruses tugging on McCurry’s disarmingly heavy lyrics (“This family has no meaning / It’s just a lie you chased away… / ‘Cause we’re on our way to an early grave. / Friendship is friendship but history is history.”) It’s one of several tracks in which Sunset Hearts’ concerns extend beyond the traditional limits of a pop song, cloaking the bright, pillowy sounds of the their synth-driven instrumentation with irreconcilable, if not downright dark, content.

If he weren’t such a smart vocalist—at once unadorned and impenetrably oblique—it’d be a tougher affair. McCurry’s words are the driving force of wwwindswept, bright and clear atop the layers of lush instrumentation. That the album never feels maudlin is a testament to the man’s wit and irony and the strength of the songs themselves.

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