Sun.Set.Ships – Man.Must.Explore

 Sun.Set.Ships – Man.Must.Explore

Sun.Set.Ships – Man.Must.Explore – EP Review

The biggest challenge in this whole music-journalism is listening to a sea of music that doesn’t always gel with our own personal taste.  The endless amount of DIY artists out there these days can get reviewers hung up on production without even hearing the ideas in the song, which can be tough too…but it’s really nothing in comparison to the ratio of music you know will hit the mark with you versus the amount of tunes you’ll hear in genres outside your own comfort zone of favorites.  I happen to like a lot of styles of music – and that’s certainly an advantage when it comes to writing about new albums, artists and bands…but as much as I might like a lot of what comes my way – there’s still a lot I wouldn’t reach for often if at all beyond my experience in listening to them here.

If you’ve been tuning into the SBS Podcast lately – you’ve been hearing a lot of the artists/bands that have been continuing to resonate with me over the years…because I continue to listen to those records, those songs, those artists/bands long beyond the experience of writing about them here.

I mention this, because I’ll be continuing to reach for Sun.Set.Ships for years to come.

Easily one of the strongest new sounds I’ve heard in the independent scene this year in any genre – it also happens that Sun.Set.Ships makes music in a style I truly identify with.  This is the kind of music that truly speaks to me…the kind of music that makes you stop everything you’re doing just to listen…because we’re not just hearing music anymore at that point – it becomes a moment in time…a memory that you’ll never forget.  You get the chills of discovery running beautifully down your spine instantly as their new EP Man.Must.Explore begins…because you know you’ve found something verifiably special here – you can feel it.  This EP is one of the strongest sets of six-songs you can possibly ever hope to hear – Man.Must.Explore is a triumph of electro-emotion from wall-to-wall and in this humble-reviewer’s opinion, an entirely unforgettable experience of 2016.

It begins in space with synth and samples before the vocals come in brilliantly into the mix.  Over the course of several listens, I kept a closer eye on the time to see just how quickly this song made its massive impact.  Loved the sample intro, loved the beginning vocals…but well before a minute in, that chorus reveals itself and the magic in this moment is truly revealed.  The way they bend the vocals to fit the melody and the brightness in the tone has this band sitting in good company somewhere in the range of Alt-J and Snow Patrol…you can hear the innovation and you can hear the sincerity.  Lyrically, loved it…so many of these lines get stuck right into your head through the strength of the performance and the way they’ve chosen to approach singing them.  The final minute of this track demonstrates a key element of Sun.Set.Ships’ music…they’ve quite often got another twist still waiting for you late in the tracks towards their ending…and the results, much like on “Sand Needs Saved” are golden.

You could potentially add MGMT & Band Of Horses into the list of comparisons…and you can keep the Snow Patrol factor in reference to “Sinking Islands” – the second tune of the EP and first chance at confirmation that what you heard at the EP’s beginning really was that awesome…and yes, it was.  The first two & a half minutes of this song play with an extra-chill vibe that’s welcoming and inviting through the lyrics.  As I’ve already mentioned…these guys are like the gift that keeps on giving – and this song absolutely LIGHTS UP just before the three-thirty mark for a terrifically inspired ending.  I like the repetitive lyrics on this particular song…I’m not always a big fan of that in general as an idea – but when done RIGHT…when done sincerely, with real authenticity and emotion – it sounds like the end of “Sinking Islands” and works as well as you could ever hope to hear.

One of the most enjoyable experiences came in the form of “Song For Brothers.”  This song made me think on all-kinds of levels…lyrically, musically and generally.  The soothing atmosphere really lets your mind wander into a beautiful space, and every so often the crunch of guitar snaps you back to reality.  Real kudos to the vocals of Sun.Set.Ships – the performance has always been pure audio perfection with a powerful voice that puts a real spotlight on emotion while offering a real perspective through the lyrics – every move made on the microphone is one I can completely support.  The swell of the low-end synth contrasting with the brightness of the electro-beat and other elements in the atmosphere works dynamically to really lift this track up from part to part.  When they drop it away, coming back sounds twice as strong as the song builds with confidence & conviction…the lyrics are heartbreaking at times – but they’re sung with power, genuine emotion and hope.  The rhythm of the vocal-flow at the end of “Song For Brothers” is superbly executed…this band seems to pull off every idea and ambition they have with the most fantastic of results.

Perhaps the easiest groove on the record, the most accessible sounds you’ll hear, all exist together in the sweet melancholy harmony of “Honey & Lemon.”  Could very well be my favorite set of lyrics in the storyline and narrative that runs through this song, and of course, as ever-reliable as always, the vocals come out sounding spectacular.  They do such a great job with structure and writing it’s all more than commendable – this is a band that truly understands how to build a song, break it down and then stuff it with tremendous ideas even further to create some absolutely breathtaking endings like the one you’ll find at the end of “Honey & Lemon.”  The music has just as much hook & pull to the final moments of this cut – and overall, “Honey & Lemon” delivers one of the most satisfying endings of all the songs on the new EP…the vocals liven-up, the music soars to brand-new heights…it’s jaw-dropping stuff.

As they head towards the end of the EP, they descend back into the atmosphere softly through the heartfelt electro-melody of “The Only Heaven There Is.”  You’ve gotta appreciate the way this entire album reflects on human nature and our relationship to our surroundings.  “The Only Heaven There Is” has excellent samples pop in & out of the beautiful environment they’ve created – vocally this one is nailed as tightly as you could ever ask for.  They use the auto-tuner so skillfully here it’s impossible to ignore what a great grip they have on this entire idea and how to make it all come together perfectly.  I’m a known regular victim of beautiful melody and slower songs…this track absolutely hit the mark for me in every possible way.  After a quick spoken-word sample, the song springs to life anew with piano and guitar notes creating a gorgeous second-half instrumental section of “The Only Heaven There Is” and bringing it to a beautiful ending.  I absolutely love the melody line this song follows…but let’s face it – Sun.Set.Ships has already completely won me over by this point in the Man.Must.Explore EP!

“Colours” finishes off the EP in a memorable way with multiple twists and elements in the writing and sound that make their longest song also one of their most entertaining.  As it builds, grows and evolves, they’ve quite often left the vocals against a sparse beat throughout the verse and leaving the vocal-melody to carry it forward.  Their progressions…their ideas…their movements in the music – it all makes so much incredible sense to the ears.  Joyful surprises…the kind of songs that build in the exact ways you’re hoping for each time around and you get the added boost of enthusiasm for it all when it feels as natural as the songs do on this EP.  They end “Colours” on the real strengths that they bring to the band with the music creating an incredible atmosphere you can feel surround you and vocals that match the energy of the mood spot-on.  The final build with the xylophone-esque sound in the mix ends this song on a complete high-note with these last hooks in the music coming out gloriously.  Amongst shouts and amped-up guitars firing, Sun.Set.Ships ties up one of the most impressive sets of music I’ve heard on a record this year with a sound I completely love to listen to personally – I freakin’ LOVE this band!

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