Fat Wreck Chords – Release Date: 9/03/13
Sundowner, the side project of Lawrence Arms singer/guitarist Chris McCaughan, has returned with its third and strongest album to date, Neon Fiction. It’s Sundowner’s first release for Fat Wreck Chords, and also features increased contributions from Lawrence Arms drummer Neil Hennessy. Hennessy now handles bass and drum responsibilities, resulting in songs that are both dynamic and diverse. The lyrics cover reoccurring themes like cities and seasons, but it’s the unique manner in which McCaughan delivers his personal stories that really allows for the listener to connect with his words. The album fittingly opens with “Cemetery West,” a song about the Chicago neighborhood where McCaughan grew up. It talks about letting go of the past and looking ahead to new beginnings, and it’s anchored by an especially catchy chorus. “We Drift Eternal” is a melancholy number that deals with isolation, but as the music picks up in the last minute or so there’s an underlying sense of resiliency and hope. “Life in the Embers” is another highlight, as it evokes traces of Dear You era Jawbreaker in the best possible way. It also speaks of consequence and taking responsibility for one’s actions, and likely contains some of the record’s most eloquent lyrics. “Wildfire” appropriately concludes the album with themes of acceptance and forgiveness, and it’s undeniably one of the most beautiful songs that McCaughan has ever penned. Needless to say, Neon Fiction is decidedly recommended for singer/songwriter enthusiasts, as well as Larry Arms diehards. Fans of McCaughan’s previous work owe it to themselves to check this out at once.