Sundressed-Whiskey With Milk

Last May Sundressed released their eponymous five song debut EP and it was one of the better releases of the year, a surprising blend of folk influences and pure indie rock. There must be something with the month of May for the guys in Sundressed, as this May they will release their first full length record Whiskey With Milk—and what better month for a band called Sundressed to release their records during. Their self-description on their bandcamp site sums up their sound perfectly: “Happy Sad Indie Folk Rock from Sunny Arizona.” On the new album though, there is a lot more emphasis on the “rock” part of that equation. The last year of non-stop playing and recording has treated Sundressed well and they have returned with a record that is much more aggressive than their debut EP.

Whiskey With Milk is yet another amazing record of the year produced by Jalipaz and Dan Somers at Audioconfusion, who seem to be turning out some of this years’ best music with probably the widest scope of styles and sounds possible. Sundressed is Trevor Hedges on Vocals/Guitar/Harmonica, Tyler Kees on Lead Guitar, Evan Kees on Bass Guitar, Matthew Douglas Gilbert on Keys/vocals/harmonica and Garrett Tretta on drums. Together they produce a fantastic sound that hearkens back to the sound of mid-period Replacements, though that may not have been evident on the debut EP it’s presented in spades on this album.

“Paper Cups” starts the album off in a rollicking Hootenanny style with some of the most self-deprecating lyrics I’ve heard from anyone in a long time. One recurring theme throughout Whiskey With Milk is frontman Trevor Hedges’ triumphant battle to stay sober and that is displayed right in the opener. “Thought you would have noticed I don’t want you anymore, I want you…I admit that I’m an asshole and I’m still selfish as shit, ever since I quit drinking all I want to do is sit, write about how I’m all better now and holier than thou.” Hedges not only wrestles with sobriety, but his relationships as well and in the end the refrain is an ever changing anger charged, “I want to be alone.” For someone who has been sober for quite some time, this song certainly comes off as a rowdy bar number that is a perfect opener for what Sundressed is offering on this round.

A newly recorded version of “Golden Boy” from their debut follows—I got to hand it to Sundressed it’s pretty brilliant to reprise the best song from your EP after the raucous opening of “Paper Cups.” Beginning slow and soft with only acoustic guitar and Hedges vocally yearning, until it explodes a minute and a half in, this version is more moving than the original, there’s more passion in all its movements, more contrast and it doesn’t hurt that the production is infinitely better. There’s simply more emotion here and the sound fits the album much better at times raging at others simply wistful, this song regardless of the version is still one of their best.

In March, Sundressed released two songs as a teaser for the album, one of those was “Holy Ghost.” It was a wise choice as it displays their revised sound, the depth they’ve added and there is something downright charming about Hedge’s vocals which are not always on key and purposefully so. It’s here that the sound of The Replacements during their mid-period emerges brilliantly, while Westerberg used to do it drunk, Hedges proudly does it sober and the vulnerability heard in his voice is ever apparent. “I’m subject to fear, but fit for survival to be perfectly clear, I’m in denial,” again the self-deprecation is well represented right from the start and the rest from their plays out like confessional poetry over a alt.country backdrop. When released in March it certainly whet my appetite for the rest of the album. “Small” follows it up, which was the other song released as a teaser two months ago and it really serves to solidify their sound. “You picked me up every time I’ve fallen and I’m still waiting on your call,” Hedges sings while this tune really serves to display the guitar work of Tyler Kees and the killer drums of Garrett Tretta. Though, admittedly, the lyrics do come through with Hedge’s delivery with brilliant gems like, “While now I’m sleeping next to nothing.”

“War” is a slower, more hypnotic number with the introduction of what sounds to be distant banjo and here Hedge’s vocal histrionics are at their best. “I’ve done it all, yeah I’ve been there before, you hate what you have so you always want more,” is one of the most brilliant, biting commentaries not only about war, but what people do when unsatisfied with the life they’ve surrounded themselves with, later it becomes “You hate what you have, so you’re waging a war” with great effect.

The second half of the album opens with another revisited track from the EP, “Dine On Me.” While it is once more the longest track of the entire affair, it’s delivered on this album with a much improved sound that serves much better as a side opener than a finale. Once more it appears that Hedge’s is battling inner demons and turning them to poetry, once more as well, the guitar line is absolutely amazing…don’t let it dine on me indeed. You’ll find it difficult not to. Before you even have a chance to catch your breath, it moves swiftly into “Results of Reasoning,” a great mid-tempo, reflective number that has one of the sweetest sing-a-long hooks on the entire album, as well as some of the best harmonies. It is also one of the most dense arrangements offered with so much going on in certain parts that you can lose yourself in allowing your ears to swim from instrument to instrument.

“Wishing Well” is the third and final track carried over and re-recorded from their debut and once more that opening line, “Honestly speaking, I’m thinking of drinking again, not like before, but more like a gentleman” is brilliantly perfect. It is something of a harrowing song as Hedges airs his doubts about sobriety and presenting the song itself as something of an addictive substance. This version of the song seems more introspective, more self-reflective, which is all a matter of the delivery and sounds more like a barroom sing a long than ever before. There is definitely a more mellow feeling to the second half of the album, “Egg Shells” is delivered starkly with only Hedges vocals and acoustic guitar. It definitely sounds like a song in which the writer is really trying to come to terms with depression, “I’m not saying that I need you, I’m just saying that I want you” is the brilliant insight here, a distinction of wisdom in where others fit into our lives. Once more there is a Westerberg feel here that cannot be denied, reminding me of The Replacements stripped down numbers and some of the solo material that followed their demise.

The cleverly titled “See Sharp” is the finale for Whiskey With Milk and it may well be the most confessional number found here. It is a monstrous number, musically and serves as the perfect closer for the album beginning with “We used to get high, before we got low…” and ending with “Where are you running to?” it tells the tale of love, rage, loss and addiction in just over five minutes with perfect precision and emotional accuracy. It’s clear that Hedges and anyone else lending their hand to the lyrics throughout the album are battling some incredibly powerful inner demons, but it sounds like the rewards of that battle is this very album. This is an album that shows what troubled souls can accomplish if they focus on creation rather than destruction, an album of many moods that commands your ears attention and worthy of the hour it takes to listen to it from beginning to end, then another when you play it again.

Tonight Sundressed will be opening for Front Bottoms and Weatherbox at the Rhythm Room. This should be a pretty amazing show and I know Sundressed is excited to be opening for their own personal heroes. The show is all ages and the doors open at 7:30pm. Be sure to Like Sundressed (www.facebook.com/sundressed) to stay up to date on all things Sundressed.

 

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