I will admit right off the bat that I'm not a huge fan of Rilo Kiley. There are tracks in their discography that really stick out and grab my ear, but as a whole I can't get into it too deeply. Before Jenny Lewis got into the solo release act, guitarist (and sometime singer and songwriter) Blake Sennett made the leap starting last two years back with his band The Elected. The debut Me First was a nice little pop release tinged with touches of electronics (courtesy of Jimmy Tamborello), but Sun, Sun, Sun strips all non-acoustic accoutrements away, leaving a disc full of breezy, southern-california inspired pop kissed with a lick of country.
Although Me First was plenty enjoyable, Sennett seems to have really found his stride with this newest effort, and even though it's downright schmaltzy at times, Sun, Sun, Sun is such a warm, inviting record that I've found myself going back to it time after time. After a short opening track, the album gallops right into "Would You Come with Me," which blends some great slide guitar and background cooing in alongside the breathy vocals of Sennett. "Fireflies In A Steel Mill" is even more 70s sounding, mixing piano and soft electric guitar while peaking with a quiet horn solo.
"Not Going Home" brings things up a notch in terms of volume and is probably the most obvious track for grabbing some radio play as multi-tracked vocals mingle with orchestral, layered instrumentation and thicker-sounding drums. Sennett has an ear for hooks, too, which becomes apparent even on more stripped-down songs like the album-titled "Sun, Sun, Sun," where he's accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar and piano while showing off his vocal chops (which at times call to mind Elliot Smith). Lyrically, he's not tackling nearly as difficult subjects, but it's a good sign when he can spout lyrics like "Sun, sun, sun, what are you doin' / You went behind the clouds / And all the rain came down" and not make them sound ultra-goofy.
Musically, the release definitely has some things in common with various Saddle Creek albums from the past couple years (especially the slick, warm aesthetic of Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Lifted...), which probably isn't a coincidence considering he recorded his first album (but not this newest one) at the same studio and with the same engineers as those records. At fourteen songs and almost fifty minutes, it runs a hair long considering the material, but the album closes with a solid wallop in the ever-building and enjoyable "Biggest Star" (which closes out with a guitar and horn blowout that really does rock). Considering the unseasonably warm weather we've been having here lately, Sun, Sun, Sun has felt right at home.