Sonny Smith’s Low-Key Garage Pop is Deceptively Smart


Sonny and the Sunsets
Talent Night at the Ashram
Polyvinyl

Seemingly adrift in a drowsy haze, the always-engaging Sonny Smith would make a fine magician, so adept is he at the art of misdirection. Like its predecessors, Antenna to the Afterworld and Longtime Companion, the winning Talent Night at the Ashram projects a laid-back, even apathetic vibe, but Smith’s low-key garage pop (brightened this time by thrift-shop synths) and aw-shucks singing are just the beginning of the story. This down-home philosopher is a thoughtful and compassionate observer of ordinary folks looking to make sense of life, as shown in such deceptively smart songs as “Alice Leaves for the Mountains”and “Icelene’s Loss.” While the seven-minute “Happy Carrot Health Food Store” will strain the patience of all but the most devoted fans, it’s a rare lapse for this charming man.