Sonnymoon - Sonnymoon

An incredibly infectious debut album that emanates good vibrations.

Label: Plug Research

Rating: 7

Like extra-terrestrials who have been watching Earth from a planet far, far away, Sonnymoon’s Anna Wise and Dane Orr come to our planet in peace. They see their ‘alien-pop’ as a way to transmit messages of peace and love to the human race, in order to save us from ourselves. Save us from things like “mediocrity, ignorance […] suburbia” and from music, which apparently does not care for the actual needs or wants of listeners. Well, that’s what the unnecessarily condescending bio says their mission is. Whether they’ve actually managed to achieve such ambitious goals is a fraught issue, but what they have managed to do is put together an incredibly infectious debut album that emanates good vibrations and a sense of cosmic playfulness by embracing an experimental take on electro pop, post-dubstep, R&B, soul and jazz, treating these styles as curiosities to be explored and manipulated just for the fun of it.

‘Sonnymoon’ features some incredibly complex arrangements that do not follow a linear, or even parabolic, song structure. It’s more like a distorted sine wave as counter-intuitive turns, and single-song genre-blending exercises abound on the album and quite often, to dazzling effect. It also has to be said that Wise is a tremendous vocalist, whose versatile voice is directly responsible for a lot of the successes of the album. Fantastic opener ‘Wild Rumpus’ transforms from a rattling cicada into a spectral nymphet, rushing through the air riding a syncopated tribal beat, seducing everyone with a voice that oscillates between pristine vocals and flurries of breathless whispers (think Lizzy Bougatsos from Gang Gang Dance). ‘∞’ is a mellow, electro-sitar driven meditation that’s endearingly kitsch, but still feels like a transcendental out-of-body experience. ‘Watersboiled’ performs musical alchemy by making such a simple and superficially unremarkable line, like “please make sure your water’s boiled” into something far catchier than it has any right to be, thanks to a bouncy bass line and a gradually corroding performance from Wise. Taking things down a notch, ‘Nothing Thought’ is a minimalist take on future soul, which turns out to be quite stunning if you give it time to unfold. ‘Every Summer Night’ sounds like what would happen if an alien found an old school two-step/garage mixtape.

However, the major issue with the album is one inherent in trailblazing through so many genres, styles, tempos, motifs like Sonnymoon do. While it shows a high calibre of musicianship, and considering the fact that there is no weak track on the album, there are times when it can be hard for any one song to stay in between your ears once it’s found itself there. The songs are such mercurial beings; by the time you feel like ruminating over them in your mind’s echo chamber, they’ve changed shape completely. And considering their mission statement is to communicate to humankind in preparation of an apocalypse of sorts, they’re not exactly accessible enough to reach everyone. This is not to say that the band should be criticised for being challenging. Their ambition is admirable and falling short of an incredibly high aim, has still resulted in a top-notch album, with boundless amounts of promise for great things to come. The otherworldly magic of the songs is not in their destination, but in the delighting in the interesting places it takes you on their trajectory.

Even if it’s not always instantly memorable, you’ll remember that you liked what you saw enough to want to repeatedly revisit the songs and re-explore their celestial magnificence all over again. Sonnymoon have taken all that we know of our earthly pop, and reconstructed them through the eyes of an alien, and as their first official attempt, it’s a pretty good one. Salvation may actually ensue on future efforts.