Black Sonny – S/T EP

Black Sonny

Black Sonny is a New York five-piece who isn’t easily pigeon-holed. I’m at a total loss for an easy comparison for their overall sound. The disc’s first song, “I Am Yr. Glass,” is pure mid-90’s alternative rock. Bush’s “Come Down” kept leaping into my head, but I’m hesitant to say it because I know the band will take it as a slight. For all of Bush’s obvious faults and sins, they did pump out a few worthy radio song knock-offs in the 90’s and, truth be told, “Come Down” was the best of them all. The same goes for “I Am Yr. Glass.” It’s the catchiest and best constructed of the songs here amd a good choice to open the disc.
The eight songs are well recorded, although there are few surprises. The sounds and mix are too similar throughout, and the vocals are frustratingly set back. They sound like a fine set of musicians with some genuinely good ideas that don’t feel fully developed. Their website says they’re planning a full length, which could be quite good if they don’t let their growth stop with their work here.
Singer Micah Valdes’ voice is the lynchpin of the band. He seems to have the ability to write melodies and lyrics that play to his strengths; it’s not so much what he’s singing as how he’s delivering it. He owes a debt to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke in that respect, as does the band with their dramatic crescendos and sweeps. The first 1:45 of “Kava Kings” is almost reminiscent of “Let Down” from OK Computer. They built a great, subtle foundation to start, but too many musical twists and turns take you away from it and never bring you back. It’s almost like they don’t know when to leave well enough alone or trust their ability to let a song develop without playing all over it. In this case, it’s a real disappointment.
Overall, they would benefit from concentrating on better ways to support him and on ways to scale back their playing to create an overall mood. The band is too angular, too stabbing in its attack. This doesn’t work as math-rock, and the busy arrangements largely work against the appeal of the vocals. The band has the ability to pull the arrangements off, but like Jeff Goldblum told us in Jurassic Park, just because you could doesn’t mean you should. The instrumentation doesn’t weave together very well, which becomes exhausting. When the music spreads out, like on the really fine “Dying Art of Wheel,” things work much better. A nicely conceived horn part helps build the choruses but wears out its’ welcome by the song’s end. It’ s indicative, though, of some of the fine ideas on this album that may hopefully turn into something more.