With a growing fan base, following an exciting 2015, a degree of expectation surrounds the release of Sunset Sons’ debut album ‘Very Rarely Say Die’. Following a chance meeting in 2013 which brought the band together in Hossegor, France, often referred to as the surfing capital of Europe, the Anglo-Aussie four-piece have since signed to Polydor Records, appeared on the BBC Sound of 2015 list, supported Imagine Dragons on their European arena tour and released a succession of well received EPs.
It’s only right therefore that the first track on their debut album, ‘Know My Name’ is an obvious statement of intent. Its uplifting keys are layered with a steady bass and a teasing electric guitar which fades in and out before building up to that emphatic chorus we’ve been expecting; ‘Don’t wanna see you go, until you know my name’. This is a band who want people to sit up and take notice.
Making a name for themselves with their catchy, upbeat pop-rock melodies led by the distinctive husky voice of Rory Williams, they don’t shy away from this formula throughout the remainder of the album. We are thrust into ‘Tick Tock’ by a syncopated drumbeat and Williams’ determined vocals, before being hit by a punchy chorus, while tracks like ‘She Wants’ and ‘On the Road’ succeed on their painfully infectious and repetitive melodies which are impossible not to singalong to. Having had a taste of mainstream radio airplay, it is clear what the aim is here.
Because of this, the chord progressions can become predictable and formulaic at times; the second half of the album threatens to tail off if not for the brilliant ‘Somewhere Maybe’ and ‘On the Road’. However, Sunset Sons aren’t trying to be fancy or profound. This is pure stadium rock made for a mainstream audience, sitting genre-wise among the likes of Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons and Kings of Leon. Ironically, it would be easy to mistake frontman Rory Williams for Caleb Followhill if it weren’t for the keyboard in place of guitar, particularly on ‘The Jam’, which sounds like it came straight from the Kings of Leon songbook.
Naturally though, things become far more interesting when they stray from the tried and tested. Rather inevitably, the band have become synonymous with their ‘surfer dude’ roots and while this may have led to the upbeat, summery quality of the album, they show that they have more to offer. ‘Bring the Bright Lights’ has a moodier feel created by a shuffling beat and an assertive leading guitar while ‘September Song’ sees a more emotive delivery from Williams with some distorted spidery guitar riffs lending a more melancholic atmosphere.
‘Somewhere Maybe’ is the highlight of the album though. An irresistible riff builds up to the anthemic chorus we’re expecting, before the song takes an unexpected turn. Just when you think it’s over, everything cranks up a notch with heavy keys and crashing percussion hurtling towards a finale as Williams sings ‘If we’re leaving, leave the light on!’ It’s a song that yearns to be played live with heaps of energy.
This is a solid debut from Sunset Sons which will surely go down well with a mainstream audience. There may be nothing too ground-breaking or profound here but it’s an album that makes you yearn for the sunny festival season.
‘Very Rarely Say Die’ is released on 1st April 2016 on French Exit via Kobalt Label Services
This Sunset Sons review was written by Suzanne Oswald, a GIGsoup contribtor.