Goldenboy – Underneath The Radio

Goldenboy
Underneath The Radio

What is it about California that inspires a dreamy quality that seems to be infused in so much of the music from its artists? This is hardly a complaint. The sun is an overwhelming force and probably exactly what we need to keep the world in balance with the music that comes from places of slightly less warmth like Seattle. I’ve even heard Californian artists that have purposely used strange instruments or even nighttime recording sessions to inspire a somberness that perhaps they hoped would overpower the sun-drenched bliss but it’s inevitable. Underneath the Radio does nothing to hide its California roots and instead, fully embraces it.

Perhaps Goldenboy is a hint of what Elliot Smith may have sounded like if his home had been moved a bit south of the Oregon border. The powerhouse duo that makes up Goldenboy is Shon Sullivan on lead vocals, guitar and keys with long time friend, Bryan Bos on drums, back up vocals and at times, guitar. Sullivan is no newcomer to the music scene with ties to artists like Neil Finn, Elliot Smith, and Spain to name a few. The duo conjures up melancholy tunes that will have you relaxed in no time as waves of dreaminess wash over you.

There are several immediately accessible tracks on this album. “Summer Of the Evening” has that timeless quality to it that you expect of artists like Elliot Smith or Morrissey. The song contains dual guitars that perfectly compliment each other as well as harmonized vocals that all ride along on bouncy drums. One of my favorite qualities about this band is its unique vocal harmonization. They do a great job of holding a higher, breathy voice over a deep bass line for a great effect. And then in the immediately following track, “Motorbike”, Sullivan almost matches the croon of The Smiths front man for another timeless tune. Further down the tracklist, “Second Day Of the Year” opens with blissful keys and light horns before making way for the soft, breathy vocals that hover above the music. These tracks will easily have you hooked.

After listening to this album a couple times, I’ve been amazed at how versatile these artists art. At first sneak peak Underneath the Radio may seem to have been out in the sun too long but with follow-up listens it becomes obvious that these multi-instrumentalists have the ability to channel many different artistic influences and mold their sound from song to song. At times, it can even be hard to tell that the same artists are performing one song to the next. My two favorite tracks are “Goodbye Erica” and the title-track, which brings the album to a close. The first is a simple acoustic number that takes full advantage of their ability to create a unique vocal sound and shows off their folk side with even a hint of quirkiness. The album closer though, is by far my favorite track of all. A piano starts off the song with light vocals that have no hint of the previous dreamy quality. It’s painfully beautiful and was quite a shock to me when I first heard it. It reminds me of some of those softer songs that can be found tucked away in some of the Smashing Pumpkins albums, like “Farewell and Goodnight” on the second disc of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Sullivan almost channels the soft voice of James Iha here. If this is what the feeling of pain and sadness invokes in Goldenboy, I can only hope their life isn’t without bumps in the road. I hope to hear more from them in the future.