Abram Shook - Sun Marquee
Record Label: Western Vinyl
Release Date: Jan. 21, 2014
What do you do after fronting a Bowie-inspired rock band? For Austin musician Abram Shook, the answer is Sun Marquee, a cornucopia of blue-eyed soul, Latin-pop, psychedelia and jazz. The disc is far from otherworldly, but has a freewheeling, sun-drenched easiness that makes one yearn for summer. The album opens with "Recovery," arguably its best song and the first moment at which the easygoing nature of the disc is on full display. Languid, inviting and amiable, the song is buttressed by an army of celestial sonic flourishes and while it may be an off-kilter way to open an album, it sorta kinda works.
“In Mind” tries its hand at being more accessible and is a hazy stew of yearning that lingers and limps before segueing into the reaching number “Distance,” an effort that seems to want more but never once gets there. On “Taken” the album threatens to stop itself dead in its tracks and seems to be content to wade in mid-tempo moodiness and monotony. Thankfully it’s rescued by “Hangover,” an organ-drenched effort that is funereal, haunting and absolutely tremendous. Shook is at his best on songs like this and one wishes the album had this same sense of intimacy. Sun Marquee’s first half concludes with the Serge Gainsbourg-inspired “Coastal,” a decidedly European effort that bathes in the sun-kissed glory of the song's tranquil rhythms. When the song bursts just before the four-minute mark, Shook proves that he is most definitely an artist worth remembering and revisiting.
The back half of Sun Marquee is welcomed with the vernal effort "Crush," a song which borrows too much from its predecessors and never really says or does anything that important. "Lifeguard" on the other hand is ebullient, effervescent and absolutely air-tight. For every song that stumbles, Shook always finds a way to rescue the disc with something worth championing and "Lifeguard" is just that song. "Black Submarine" is jaunty and inspired and frolics along with an urgency that is sorely needed on this sedate and sleepy effort, but aside from that, does little else. Thankfully it's rescued by "Tribe" a twinkling and gloaming sonic nugget with layers of atmospherics and a hazy veneer that seems akin to wrap the listener in a blanket of warmness. Sun Marquee closes with "Summer Fools," a jangly bent of lo-fi dream folk that seems to point at a future direction for Shook''s next effort.
Releasing a sun-kissed effort like Sun Marquee in the dead of winter may or may not be intentional but that being written the disc is a solid collection of some keenly inspired lo-fi efforts. While it certainly has its fair share of misses, there's enough here that makes one interested for the follow up and even more interested in how songs like this translate live. Sure, Sun Marquee may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for those that do, it's something worth revisiting.