Sooner the Sunset ‘Sooner the Sunset' (independent)
After leaving Universal Music Group and moving forward as a fully independent artist, Graham Colton began taking left turns with his music, collaborating with Wayne Coyne on a loving and spacious cover of Sparklehorse's “Don't Take My Sunshine” and taking a second and more sonically daring run at several tracks from “Pacific Coast Eyes” at Norman's Blackwatch Studios for a “Vol. 2” edition of the album. The Oklahoma City native is now making some of the most interesting and varied music of his career, and Sooner the Sunset, a new collaboration with Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Lindsey Ray, finds Colton exploring a relaxed California country-rock sound on this first five-song EP.
Ray and Colton both come from polished pop-rock backgrounds, but “Sooner the Sunset” is characterized by a conspicuous lack of fussiness in its production and performance. The bright opener “All Because of You,” a sweeter swing at love-as-disease songs such as Robert Palmer's “Bad Case of Loving You,” gets a Wall of Sound echo but is powered simply by guitar strums, glockenspiel, bass-and-snare interplay and the singers' harmonic convergence. “Mark, Set, Go” gets a Hammond B-3 and steel guitar to go along with the hand claps and bass drum as Colton and Ray blend together from start to finish. Each song gets a shot at shining, including the twangy country stomper “Long After I'm Gone” — this is a lean and direct collection with no time wasting or filler.
While there is a temptation to compare Sooner the Sunset to pairings such as She & Him, Colton and Ray split vocal duties 50/50, from “All Because of You” to the set's tender closer, “Helium Heart.” Also, while both volumes from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were rendered with a consciously retro sensibility and production style, the approach on this EP is more geared toward directness and simplicity. Fortunately, the songs are strong enough that they succeed without much elaboration: “Sooner the Sunset” is brief and will leave fans wanting much more, and the consistent quality makes a fine argument for Colton and Ray's pared-down approach. It also provides further evidence that Colton's subtle reinvention is working out, both for him and his longtime listeners.