But, even a cursory listen reveals the group's namesake has become more of a royal decree than a wistful wink at their classic-pop pedigree. The name itself--actually, down to the cover art--of the band's sophomore effort is just as much a reflection on their past as it is an acceptance of their future.
Exploring the anxiety of maturing, Sunset / Sunrise trades the eight-track in the bedroom for a traditional recording studio and darkness for light.
While the Seattle strummers' debut, 2008's critically lauded She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke, was a playful pastiche of finger-picked Between the Buttons-era Rolling Stones riffs, punk pathos and a few disguised protest anthem song structures, Sunset / Sunrise views these basic components with a fresh set of eyes. Songs like the late-night love letter, "Living This Life," still revel in three-chord remorseful finger-picking and minimal percussion, but wander the streets whistling a new tune. Relying less on the 60s folk posturing (lo-fi recordings, acoustic campfire strumming, crisp handclaps) that punctuated much of their last effort, sometimes hindering it, the album is a resounding note to silence any "one-trick-pony" criticism. Hell, the guitars even get plugged in (Judas?).
Exploring the anxiety of maturing, Sunset / Sunrise trades the eight-track in the bedroom for a traditional recording studio and darkness for light. Mirroring its title, early songs--like the mournful plea of album opener, "Hands,"--deal in themes of doubt and isolation. The record's 'dark' side finds songs resting on little more than guitarist/vocalist Jesse Lortz's defeated croon, ambling over simplistic chord progressions, ghostly church organ and sympathetic violin sparsely punctuated by disaffected percussion.
At the halfway point on the title track, the duo fleshes out their sound and central motif in a psychedelic, jangly ode to the road unknown. For the first time, handing over sole vocal duties to guitarist/vocalist Kimberly Morrison, the song's piano-breakdown-bridge hints at a split with the group's past as well as where the album turns next. By the end of the record, after a few slight nods to influences (I swear the guitar solo on "Never Had a Chance" is an outtake from a Their Satanic Majesties Request session), The Dutchess and the Duke make peace with their old demons, taking strides toward the future. As the duo inhabit folk, doo-wop and gospel on the album closer, "The River," Lortz proclaims his darkness an essential, even now that he's found the warmth of sun. "The clouds can melt away/ now the sun can shine again/ if there's a darkness in my soul/ I let the darkness walk with me."
Sometimes, the dark is the easiest place to find yourself.
You'll Like It if You're a Fan of:
Why You Should Listen:
Watch The Dutchess and the Duke sing "Scorpio" off their new album, Sunset / Sunrise: