What’s most striking about Steve Gunn’s latest is the fullness of the record. Not that his recent albums have been totally stark, but in working his way from experimental figure to establishing himself as a singer-songwriter in people’s minds, he’s never quite draped an album with as much ornamentation as he has on Other You. Eyes on The Lines pushed the rock instincts to their natural conclusion, 2019’s The Unseen Between found Gunn working through a country troubadour tenure, feeling out for fullness, but still masquerading as a kind of solitary figure. With Rob Schnapf (Elliott Smith, Beck, Kurt Vile) on board the emphasis here seems to be on texture as much as tone.
There’s the same tenderness that Steve’s brought to his vocal works, but here they’re laid into lush instrumental beds of organ shimmer, softly shaken percussion, and the kind of soft ‘60s and ‘70s touches that conjure mahogany paneled settings. Backwards instrumentation, lilting, gossamer background vocals, and an almost lived-in quality marks the guitars this time. The string work is not as flashy as Gunn’s has been in the past, letting the record act more as environment than exposition, but he commits to the idea wholeheartedly. Where other Gunn records might have benefited from crackling out of the loudspeakers this one may well constitute his first true headphone record.
Inside the solitude of this listening experience, Other You comes alive with textures — ripples of synth that radiate around the skull, taffy thick slices of guitar that glow in pastel perfection, and a constant sea of drums, shakers, harp and thrum that keep the listener enthralled. Not since Way Out Weather has a shift felt so apparent in Steve’s aesthetics, but while this may not please some of the most ardent guitar fans from his stable, the vapor he’s collected and corralled here is quite the worthwhile experience.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.