Way Out Weather by Steve Gunn (Album of the Week)


Album: Way Out Weather

Artist: Steve Gunn

Year: 2014

About: 8 songs; 44 minutes

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

I had never heard of Steve Gunn or his music prior to picking his album for our new listen. Because we are going to a music festival in a couple months, I wanted to pre-game by listening to a few of the musicians that I had never heard of. We did this last year before we went to Forecastle, and it really helped me enjoy some new music probably more than I would have if I went in naive. 

That being said, trying to sit down and explain what Steve Gunn’s album is like is a little tough. The image that keeps coming to me is my college friends and I, in the 1970s-80s, sitting around and listening to stuff over and over. Eerily similar, is Dan’s reflection on this album over on his blog. We had not discussed the album much at all, and we both managed to come up with the same analogy. Lots of Way Out Weather has a lazy sway to it that makes you close your eyes and get dreamy to it. There are loops of instrumentation that trail through the songs as the vocals breeze in out with a sleepy drawl that kind of made me think Neil Young’s style – especially on Tonight’s the Night. But then there are points in the album when he opens it up and it is psychedelic Woodstock jamming.

I couldn’t get lyrics to any of the songs, but it didn’t really matter. It is the music and the mood of these songs that really brought me along. There are so many twists and turns to these songs, be it in the different guitar lines, or the synthy sounds, or a really tight drum line that carries through every song. It is headphones music that could make you dizzy with how it travels in and out of each ear and back again.

This is the kind of music and musicianship that makes me marvel at how good band’s members really sync with one another. The subtle changes that happen in each of these songs are turns on a dime. Milly’s Garden starts out with a wavy synth sound then becomes an almost jazzy electric guitar line joined by a Grateful Dead-ish vocal while it grows with intensity and instruments (including a pounding piano). The same song then it falls into a Jimi Hendrix-y electric guitar riffing midsection jam before it settles back into the slow groove of the jazzy line that opened it. Before it finally ends with the same synth wave that opened it, it does that big build again. And it all fits and moves perfectly.

There are songs here that open like a classic James Taylor folk song, but there is always more here that comes in to make each track more complicated and interesting.

A song named Atmosphere opens up with sounds that evoke atmospheric drifting and rarely lifts out of that mood even as the music becomes less dreamy and more defined. The vocal is muted and languid.

The album ends in full funk with Tommy’s Congo. It is more then six minutes of beats and rhythms that exudes an ominous intensity. There is a equally ominous intense short film that is on line that uses the music as a backdrop. It fits perfectly.

Steve Gunn and his music worked for me these last couple weeks. Each time I listened to it, I completely floated on his compositional talent and stellar guitar work. There were parts of each song that had turns that I totally loved, and each of the 44 minutes that it took to listen through it each time were enjoyable for me. He is now on my Pitchfork “to watch” list.

Next up: Too Bright, by Perfume Genius