Sundowner - We Chase the Waves
Record Label: Asian Man Records
Release Date: August 10, 2010
There's a lingering cloud of misguided hope bouncing around on We Chase the Waves, the sophomore full-length from Sundowner, solo project of Chris McCaughan (aka one-half of the Lawrence Arms' vocal arrangement). None of the ten songs found here are patterned to brighten or replenish; rather, the record is a collection of poems strung together by a common theme of despair and apt confession. It's McCaughan's chance to really take on a life of his own and exhibit his brilliant candor in a remarkable new and bare sense.
On opening track "In the Flicker," the vulnerabily presents itself and doesn't plan on leaving until its half-hour stay is over with. "The gloom is brooding in the west / How many lives have I got left?" A slow-burning apocalyptic lullaby, McCaughan has recorded an album fit for the coldest months and turbulent memories. "The darkness is all you see," he chimes on "Araby," a rightful passage if there ever was one. "Whales and Sharks" is a peppier melody, yet retains the melancholy tone. Thankfully, you won't feel compelled to reach for the Xanex at any point during the record. McCaughan is a gifted songwriter with a capable voice to keep listeners enthralled. While "As The Crow Flies" is the album's weakest overall number, it refrains from kicking the whole thing off-tempo.
Showing his Chicago roots and keeping in tune with the record's theme of hopelessness, "Baseball's Sad Lexicon" might be the most peculiar track. While it would feel out of place on nearly any other record, considering it details the hapless Chicago Cubs' famed defensive threesome ("Tinkers to Evers to Chance"), who were on the last Cub teams to ever win the World Series over 100 years ago. The song displays McCaughan's sense of humor and presents another angle of vulnerability to the record's open confessional style.
"Mouth of the Tiger" is Sundowner's most triumphant song to date, and as pessimistic as it claims to be (literally), it's difficult to ignore McCaughan's black humor and pitiful portrayal ("I'm as lucky as a funeral"). This is certainly not a soundtrack for your dog days, however as the leaves change color, days get shorter and air finds its chill... chasing Waves is going to feel less like running on empty, and more like walking on water.