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best indie albums 2008
What happens when a band with a major record label deal tosses it away and puts everything on the line in a bold move to return to their independent roots? The answer in the case of the rock band The Sun is simple: they create a masterpiece album.
But The Sun's split from Warner Bros. was not trouble-free nor fool proof - two band members left as a result, legal battles ensued and major disagreements with management were just some of the fallout in the wake of their decision to sever their contract and go indie.
“We hawked the gear, we sold the van, we squeezed as much as we could out of the label (Warner Bros.) and severed all ties,” The Sun's singer and guitarist Chris Burney said of the break.
In the aftermath of their former lives as big label artists, the remaining band members teamed up with Spoon producer Mike McCarthy to work on their second - and reportedly last - LP, Don’t Let Your Baby Have all the Fun, which was officially released as a free download on November 10th via RockProper.com. Free is great; but this is one record we'd gladly pay for, so if a vinyl edition comes out (please!), we'll let you know.
The Sun formed in 2001 after Burney wrote and recorded a tape of slick, gritty garage rock demos. With songs in hand, Burney recruited New Bomb Turks' drummer Sam Brown and Floatation Walls' guitarist Carlos Avendano to start a band. All three members dropped out of Ohio State University in Columbus to make music full-time. Eventually they were joined by another FW member, Brad Fosblom, on bass, and Brad Caulkins, on keyboards and guitar. (Subsequently, Avendarno, Fosblom and Arendt left the band to pursue other projects.).
In 2001-2002, The Sun began recording with Wilco's Jay Bennett in his Chicago. Within in few months time, the band signed with Warner Bros. and released their debut EP, Love and Death, in February 2003, followed two years later by their first LP, Blame It on the Youth. But the LP, despite its solid collection of songs, was a commercial failure, and the remaining band members - Burney, Brown and Caulkins - were uncertain of what would happen next.
Sometime in 2008, McCarthy contacted the band to express interest in producing their next album at his Austin studio. "I was a big fan of their first record," McCarthy said. "I was surprised [Blame It on the Youth] didn't become a huge, big, big deal."
"It was the first time that the band felt natural to me," Brown said. Even though other labels, including Merge Records, demonstrated interest to distribute the album, the band's manager deliberately delayed its release, apparently with the hope to elaborately promote it as a self-release - a formula that has worked well for other artists.
Frustrated by the LP's state of limbo, the remaining band members started giving away Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun at their 2008 ComFest performance, until its official release earlier this month via RockProper. Essentially giving up hope that the LP would be released by a label, Caulkins left to join LA's Afro-pop band, Fool's Gold.
The LP's first single, "So Long Sundays," blends catchy rhythms, high octane synthesizers, raspy vocals, and edgy lyrics, resulting in an seductive garage rock hit (and probably the most "Spoon-sounding" track on the LP.)
"So Long, Sundays" - The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
"The Goddess," is one of the most memorable tracks on the LP, and frankly of the latter half of 2009. The bright guitar riff alone hooks you into the grooves of the song's T. Rex-meets-Pavement sound. As it marches along enthusiastically for two and half minutes, the song suddenly ends, followed by a 40 second acoustic interlude ("A Prayer Before Dawn") which ends abruptly with a burp and a giggle.
"The Goddess"- The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
As you listen to this album, you can't help but notice how much fun the band is having, and it rubs off, as evidenced by tracks like new wave leaning recording "Cold Hands"; the epic, melodic pop rock of "In Perfect Time"; the danceable, excited, "Watch Out," and the lo-fi urgency suspense of "Alien."
"Cold Hands (Clap Louder)"- The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
"In Perfect Time" - The Sun from Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun (2009)
It's just too bad the band does not plan to record another album together. During the past year, Caulkins stated he has no interest in playing with The Sun again; Burney started a new band called Adult Fiction, and a record label, Eastern Watts; Brown continues to tour with RJD2 and has embarked on his new power-pop project, You're So Bossy.
If you enjoy the C86, glam rock and post punk music genres of the 1970's and early-to-mid 1980's - all of which paved the way for so much of the alternative and indie rock we enjoy today - you're probably going to love Don’t Let Your Baby Have All the Fun. This LP is simply a masterpiece, and a decade from now, it will be regarded as a underrated classic. We can only hope that the band will reunite to record more music and set out on tour in the near future; absent that wishful-thinking, The Sun have left us with at least two amazing albums.
The Sun on MySpace
The Sun's Official website
Get The Sun's new LP free
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