The Gunshy – To Remember/To Forget

The Gunshy
To Remember/To Forget

The Gunshy’s Matt Arbogast’s voice has that perfect breathy quality that just seems to evoke sincerity and compassion. It’s as if he’s singing to you, almost whispering his vocals in a hushed tone that speaks of desperation and melancholy. Unfortunately, his delivery doesn’t change much throughout the 10 songs that make his debut as The Gunshy (joined by fellow musicians Josh Silliman and Dave Pitz).
Take a heavy dose of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst (without the warbly vocals), add in a dash of Nick Drake, and stir in Will Oldham, and you have concocted The Gunshy. It’s a style of music that’s always going to be popular: half folk, half indie-rock. The sincerity is undeniable, and the soft acoustic guitar and conspirational tone is a nice approach. But without a bit more variation and complexity, the album wears away with each listen. And Arbogast’s seldom-changing vocals are too hard to understand through their own hushed delivery.
The opener, “Why Are You,” is about as bare as they come: just Arbogast’s hushed voice and very simple acoustic guitar. “But I don’t want to live to say I’ve forgotten all my days. I don’t want to tell my rbother it’s my own heart I’ve betrayed,” he sings. It’s a nice lead-in to the more fully fleshed out “To Forget,” which adds some theramin and more emphasis on the guitars. In “To Remember,” Arbogast pours out his heart, singing “Had it not been for the day that you came, I’d have cursed the blue skies and all the lovers in their perfect disguise for all the happiness they gave.”
On “No One Should Ever Have to Live Like That,” fuller guitar songs help give the song a greater sense of urgency, and “The Ghost of an Alibi” adds some light keyboards and maybe even the hint of a cello to flesh out the song. The strings and light piano are all you get on the very mournful “K,” on which Arbogast sings/whispers, “But if boredom and daydreams were all I could give you, please take them and be on your way.” “Always Right” feels like an older song, with odd production mishaps at the beginning, but Arbogast’s vocals are clearer, as he sings “You told me this town’s killing me, and I had to agree. But the chills of November always bring out the skeptic in me. They always bring out the worst parts of me.” Maybe the best song is the dirgeful yet chiming “Once You Were Sure,” which closes the album.
I think I should like this more than I do. I eat up these sincere singer/songwriters, generally, and I can’t get enough of Bright Eyes when they take a similar, heartfelt approach. But while The Gunshy have created a very passionate debut album that’s perfect for early morning or late night listening, there are not enough changes and depth to sustain it through multiple listens. As a debut, it’s a great start, but I’m sure his best is yet to come.