A Sunset, A Shining Moon

Bill Baird treats his fans well. He maintains a dedicated following that, if his new album Loveshines But The Moon Is Shining Too is any indication, should increase exponentially shortly. Baird appears quite kind to fans as well, as his tireless work ethic and dedication caught my attention in 2008, when he released two full-lengths in the span of five months. The quality of those two albums, Bright Blue Dream and The Glowing City, led me to the official release of Pink Clouds. Its first incarnation was as a cassette Baird had given to about 100 friends. But after one copy leaked, the band’s work ethic and dedication came out when they decided to re-release it in its true form. Their small but dedicated following deserved the best, at least according to the members of then-named {{{Sunset}}}. Baird and the rest of that group have been hard at work since then, dropping the ‘{{{‘ and ‘}}}’ from their name and sounding even better.

The shifting lineup that is Sunset appears to be in constant variation, but there are never signs of rustiness. Baird released a Sunset album last year entitled Gold Dissolves to Gray, but to me it sounded like a jumbled point of indecision between playful psychedelia and stabs at atmospherically-bound electronica. It sounded pretty and graceful, but pop hooks represent one of Baird’s most pronounced strength and there simply were not enough of them throughout Gold Dissolves to Gray. His fifth full-length, Loveshines But The Moon Is Shining Too, is different though. Baird’s grasp on delicate pop is still there, as his vocals never escalate with great authority despite emitting harmonious bliss, but the music benefits more from elements of pop that coincide with his twinkling vein of neo-psychedelia and folk. Experimentation is present but not to the extent of his previous effort, where fascination ad intrigue occasionally prevailed over common sense.

Loveshines But The Moon Is Shining Too gets on the right track immediately with opening “Heavy Light”, a track the combines the wintery, echoey key-laden allure of The Walkmen with the slick guitar-key harmonic collab that ’70s pop artists like Electric Light Orchestra perfected. Baird’s unique voice is as present as ever, shifting through an array of infectious coos and grunt-like tones that resemble both Neil Hannon and Beck, depending on the verse. Comparisons to other artists may be more evident here than on other Sunset releases, if only because Baird is less consumed with crafting an entirely unique sound and more focused on writing excellent pop songs. This is seen especially on tracks like “Heavy Light” and “Late Night Dawning”, the latter of which stars Crystal Fulbright and Red Hunter on vocals in a touching performance that really plays on Baird’s repeated use of tremolo. The accompaniments behind it, both on vocals and strings, are extraordinary and fully representative of Baird’s compositional prowess.

Seeing as how the original version of “Loveshines” was a song that I enjoyed and posted, it is no surprise that the original catches my attention as well. Its sequel though, “Loveshines II”, is even better. Baird slams on the keys with vigor, allowing the pulsating tremolo to eventually become engaged in a wonderful chorus that hearkens back to The Beatles’ psychedelic ballads in its outstanding use of strings. It sounds mysterious and enjoyably vintage, yet remains crisp enough to fit within Sunset’s arsenal of indie-pop and psychedelia. Baird has accomplished great things here, and it is certainly worth hearing.

RIYL: Electric Light Orchestra, Beck, The Walkmen, Brazos, The Bitters, Still Corners, Golden Ages, Grimes, Family Portrait, Pill Wonder, Tennis, Pearl Harbor, The Mantles, Pepi Ginsberg, Twin Sister, Summer Camp, Happy Birthday, Golden Triangle, Pure Ecstasy, Aska, The Delta Mirror

MP3: Sunset – Heavy Light

MP3: Sunset – Late Night Dawning

Official Site

Autobus Records


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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