Bad Suns - Language & Perspectives

Glide along to the smooth sounds of Cali boys as they share the inner workings of their minds.

Additional Info

8.3

ALBUM: Language & Perspectives

ARTIST: Bad Suns

2014

Alternative

The Bad Suns’ sound has been compared to Bastille, Hot Hot Heat, Elvis Costello, and other somewhat disparate references. Bon Iver, Maroon 5, and 311 make viable comparisons as well. The fact is, Bad Suns grew up together and their sound has matured along with the boys in the band, and their music tastes. The first concerts they attended had headliners like Blink 182, No Doubt, and Weird AL Yankovich, nestling them snuggly in line with the first impressions of many LA youth. Their union came as natural as a friendship between middle school boys, and the four, vocalist Christo Bowman, drummer Miles Morris, guitarist Ray Libby, and bassist Gavin Bennett, began the start of a Californian “hook-heavy indie rock” group in 2012. They’ve noted their main goal as a group is to enhance and innovate the stage presence during performances; Bad Suns values their fans and listeners, and they form a connection with them in a uniquely musical way. The album Language & Perspective is full of poetry, metaphors, and references to oceanic waves. Their use of personal experience opens up the band’s personal feelings and anxieties, many of which are relatable and humanizing.

Bad Suns resists the confinement of one musical genera. When asked if they considered themselves an indie band, they responded by agreeing, yes, they are signed on an independent label, but the term “indie” has become so loaded over the past few years. They incorporate sounds and styles into their music that they feel sounds good. It’s that simple. They don’t strive to pigeonhole themselves under one specific genera. “I think our music is a blend of different ingredients from a lot of music that inspires us,” vocalist Christo Bowman told the Dallas Observer.

Their album developed organically; they made a handful of songs on an EP, continued the production of Language & Perspective, and felt they needed another to round out the energy of the album. The boys collected in a room with a handful of lyrics from years and years of writing with the intention to make a song that had a new sound for Bad Suns. Bennett struck the opening bass line, and, as Bowman says, they built “Dancing On Quicksand” around it.

The album’s signature symbol is a cut out of the Zia Sun on a read background. Sunset lit palm trees glow behind the cut out, illuminating the Zia Sun. This particular image found its way onto the cover of Language & Perspective after some research on “sun symbols” corresponding to their band’s name. The group was drawn to the four points distinct points of the Zia Sun. It represents so many things to them: the four seasons in a year, the four stages in life, the four sections of the day. The band is centered around the number four: there are four member, four instruments, and four stages that they envision in their lives.

To illuminate the ideology among these Californian boys and the meaning behind their album art work, a brief lesson on Eastern religion goes a long way. Under traditional Hinduism, the four stages of life are called “ashramas,” and each stage progresses the development of the individual in a mindful, spiritual way. It’s possible Bad Suns mirror this progression in Language & Perspective. The first ashrama stage of life is dedicated to learning and absorbing, called “Brahmacharya.” The second stage occurs only after the individual has practiced under a guru and has the capacity to marry and begin a family. This stage, the sweetest, and often longest stage, is “Grihastha.” Hinduism encourages the pursuit of wealth, “artha,” and romantic indulgence, “kama,” at this time, uncharacteristically welcoming the fruits of labor. Inside and out of the Hindu religion, adults find themselves lingering at this stage and finding the most joy here. The last two stages, “Vanaprastha,” to retreat, and “Sannyasa,” to wander, have now become idealistic pillars of inspiration, for living alone in the woods after the age of 50 rarely suits the modern individual.

The creation of “Cardiac Arrest,” the groups first hit, experiences the ashramas stages, in a way. The guitar lines were written by Christo Brown at the age of 13, and the chords traveled with him through his musical development, evolving into what became their most important track yet.

We put ['Cardiac Arrest'] online saying, 'This is what we've been working on for so long, hope you guys like it at least,'" he says. "We were expecting to put [Bad Suns] to rest after releasing the song, just to show what we were doing and then start a new project.

After piecing together the track for the span of six years, the group said good riddance and posted “Cardiac Arrest” online. Though their inaugural album dropped only hours ago, Bad Suns curated a strong following of fans due to the release of “Cardiac Arrest.” According to the reviews, fans recognize the value and sincerity in this alternatively styled, organically made group, and they appreciate it.

“Language and perspective shape the way we live.”

1. Matthew James
This track opens Language & Perspective with light, refreshing sound resting on the foundation of a kick drum that gets your foot tapping along. The lyrics flow along with the mellow sound until the reference to the album title comes up third verse. It sparks the listeners attention, and brings a heavier, intellectual tone to the summery jam. “Language and perspective shape the way we live,” is a bold and astute observation made by some fairly young guys. It seems contemporary music these days makes of point of telling the public how obtuse we’ve become. The more absorbed society becomes with personality profiles, like social media, the more deeply individuals are concerned with themselves. “Matthew James” is a wake up call delivered on the smooth sands of a summer beach. It mirrors back to the listener everyday actions, “The TV's on, it helps me sleep/ The force of habit killing me/ The kiss goodnight, a stale routine/ The spark is gone, what's wrong with me?” Blatantly, it points out the lack of awareness fostered by television and monotonous routines. The third verse offers a solution: “Language and perspective shape the way we live,” giving the album it’s title. On the flip side, the lyrics go on to explain that when one tries to simplify and find an answer in the chaos of life, they are only left with time passing them by. “Matthew James” is a very contemplative track headlining the album.9.0
2. We Move Like the Ocean
Continuing on in a very similar sound, the theme of being “lost” returns again. With beautiful metaphors and language, a relationship is described that moves methodically, day in and day out, like the ocean. “But I can't swim anymore,” adds a somber tone. This track leaves a bitter taste as the flowing lyrics and rhythm detail falling out of love. The words are concise, and the metaphors keep coming. “Wake me up/ I fell in love in a dream/But I can't remember your face,” perfectly describes the sentiment of being in a relationship, and trying to remember when you fell out of love. The lyrics are poetic, and their sound mimics the ocean’s ebbing tides.8.7
3. Cardiac Arrest
As their killer initial release, this track elevated the Bad Suns to the point of exponential recognition. It opens with their signature translucent sound, but picks up in tempo more so than the two previous tracks. “Catchy” is the first word of description that comes to mind when this track comes on. The lyrics describe the feeling of butterflies and insecurities among new, young love. “I'll try my best, how much do I invest?/ Like cardiac arrest, high voltage when we kiss,” are two predominant lines in the song reflecting the excitement and frightfulness of placing your heart in another’s possession.8.9
4. Pretend
At this point in the album, the sound of Bad Suns has remained consistently similar, as it does in this track. Though not particularly a negative choice for Language & Perspective, since it turns the focus to the lyrics, it nonetheless gets a little tired four songs into the album. The lyrics provide the quality content in this track, as Bowman muses over his inner self and a stagnant relationship. The lines, “We’re painting portraits but the canvas is blank/ If this life is a gift then who do we pay?” are more smartly constructed metaphors that add depth to “Pretend” and pay tribute to the album’s title. The song loses focus as the stanzas switch between a night of romance and personal soul searching. Moments when an acoustic guitar solely accompanies Bowman’s lovely voice stand out as much more unique than the surrounding parts of the song.7.8
5. Take My Love and Run
The upbeat tempo and baritone vocals, reminiscent of Maroon 5’s music, are a welcomed break from the initial sound and vibe of the album. The track introduces a groovy mood to Language & Perspective, but the groove is interrupted by some strange initial lyrics. The boys of Bad Sun’s are all about the metaphors, but the opening like for “Take My Love and Run” struggles to make sense: “A dropped penny said this feels so liberating, take my love and run.” But, that reference can be left to a musician’s eccentrically creative mind. The concept of comparing love and intimacy to the open ocean returns, and the familiar connection works to unify the album. The image of the tide rolling in over you, washing away all emotion is painted, and “Grab my bag and bring me into the ocean” has a clearer metaphorical connection. The song encourages listeners to take their emotional baggage into the ocean for the tide to wash away the worry.7.6
6. Dancing On Quicksand
The every-catchy “ooh ooh ooh” in the refrain of “Dancing On Quicksand” is so fun, it’s hard to resist the temptation of dancing barefoot at the beach with the song in the background. This indie pop hit is one of the more popular tracks on the album, for good reason. The carefree mood it casts is contagious, and lyrics like, “I ran out of luck, when I fucked up/And nothing's gonna change that, whoa oh” are a happy-go-lucky breath of fresh air.8.6
7. Salt
Originally released on their Transpose EP, the drum accompaniment is different and intriguing. The lyrics read like a poem, and circle back to Bad Sun’s familiar conversation of identity and self actualization. They are personal and edge on being dark, a new element for Bad Suns. The story they tell is of an individual uncomfortable in their own skin, not “attached to this name,” full of confusion and pain. “Don't ask why, why/ I’m taking this route/ It’s alright, right?/ That’s what I tell myself/ but I don't know,” comes across very raw and relatable for the 20-something year old band members. Bad Suns accomplishes a serious poetic feat in “Salt.”9.0
8. Transpose
The boys continue discussing the challenges of transitioning from one’s formative years into adulthood, while developing a clear perspective. As a band that waited years for public recognition, it’s hard not to parallel this song to their own personal experiences in the music industry. “All of my anxiety/ There’s no cause that I can see/ What’s this scratching at my brain?” They describe a sentiment so many people, if not everyone, has experienced at some point in their life, and deliver their story of anxiety in a soft, soothing manner. Many wonder if following their passions is a waste of time. “From time to time, we fall in line/ But now it seems that we are blind” speaks to the unpredictability and random nature of the universe.8.3
9. Learn to Trust
This track conforms to the energy in the second half of Language & Perspective. As if a postlude to “Transpose” and “Salt,” the track again expresses anxiety over the inner turmoil fueled by questions like, “Can I hold it down? Have I been trying my best?” The object of stress narrows in near the end of the track when the verse, “Tell me we're both done, why should I listen?/ Tell me we're both done, the words all go missing,” is repeated. The song pleads for the heart to let go of a love that has moved on. The backend of the album moves to a romantic, somber note.8.3
10. Sleep Paralysis
“Sleep Paralysis” zooms out from the personal focus taken in the previous tracks. The tempo is fast paced and more rock n’ roll than the Bad Suns’ sound up until now. The song encourages the listener to leave a mark on the world, in a stream of consciousness-like style, “Oh, carve your name in a tree/ Or just run your fingers through wet concrete, yeah/ Leave a mark, a mark worth leaving/ What’s self with, the moment's fleeting.” This track amplifies the notion of perspective in the album; if a permanent mark isn’t left on the world, and you’re name isn’t seen or heard, what’s to say you ever existed at all?8.9
11. Rearview
Language & Perspective ends on a upbeat, pop-song note, surprisingly. After taking listeners on a poetic journey through metaphors, experiences and anxieties, the subject matter in “Rearview” takes up a night out on the town: “You wear your hair down/ Your face is made up.” Though a much different attitude than the previous tracks, the content here is still very relatable for the 20 somethings band, and the fan base they accrue. They conclude album and track with the feeling of being lost, once again, singing, “Feels so far from home/ Try to fill a hole/ Sunset in the rearview losing your control.” The sound on this track combines the light, upbeat energy of the first half of the album, while implementing the rock n’ roll energy that builds in the second half.8.5
Written by Shelby Tatomir
Reading and writing are my roots, making music, design, and photography sprouting branches of special interests that I am always striving to cultivate.



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