Sonny & The SunsetsView in iTunes
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The Sunsets coalesced in 2007 around prolific Bay Area songwriter, author, filmmaker, and visual artist Sonny Smith. With a rotating lineup made up of San Francisco regulars, including multi-instrumentalist Kelley Stoltz, Tahlia Harbour (the Dry Spells), John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees), Tim Cohen, and Shayde Sartin (Skygreen Leopards), the Sunsets gave Smith a perfectly sloppy, immaculately informed backdrop for his wry love songs and touching moments of all-too-real weirdness. Following a debut EP, Hypnotist, the band released its first long-player, Tomorrow Is Alright, in 2010. That year, the Sunsets also participated in Smith's 100 Records show in San Francisco, where nearly 100 artists created fictional jackets and labels for a series of fictional 7"s created by Smith. Smith then recorded songs to match their covers, presenting his recordings in the form of a working jukebox, including one credited to the Sunsets. By the time of the 2011 release of Hit After Hit, the band had solidified into a core of Smith on vocals and guitar, Stoltz on drums, Harbour on vocals and guitar, and Ryan Browne on bass. Smith returned a year later with Longtime Companion, a country-styled record about and written during the breakup from his girlfriend of ten years. The next Sunsets record signaled a change back to the group's original sound. Inspired by the murder of their Austin-based patron Esme Barrera and Smith's psychic contact with another dead friend, the melancholy yet oddly uplifting Antenna to the Afterworld was released by Polyvinyl in the early summer of 2013. Smith followed this album in early 2015 with Talent Night at the Ashram, a collection of songs centered around characters from screenplays and scripts he had written to various states of completion. These character sketches eventually morphed from screen ideas into songs, making for a colorful and highly cinematic album. Produced by tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus, Sonny & the Sunsets' sixth full-length, 2016's Moods Baby Moods, took sonic inspiration from '80s new wave and funk. ~ Jesse Jarnow