Spiritual odysseys are often the subject of the stories we share with one another. The romantic idea of “the soul’s high adventure” has been the consistently compelling backbone of everything from ancient myths to modern fiction. It’s so deeply ingrained in cultures throughout the world that it’s become part of our collective cultural baggage. Austin-based musician Abram Shook has done his share of wandering the world, searching for a spiritual and a literal home. From road trips through South America to surfing excursions in Indonesia, he’s been fortunate to have the opportunity to absorb more of the world’s cultures first-hand than many of us ever will.
After leaving Santa Cruz, California where he grew up and studied jazz, Shook spent several years in Portland and Boston playing in numerous bands and wrestling with an unsettled spirit. Turning to travelling as a means to quell his existential dread, eventually landed him in Austin, Texas, where he’s been part of the city’s rich creative community for over eight years. Though the music community in Austin is no substitute for the briny air and patient West Coast beaches he still longs for, its vitality and creativity still manage to nourish the soul.
Abram Shook’s solo debut, Sun Marquee, breathes with the lungs of a man that finally found a new place to call home while also reflecting upon the circuitous path that led him here. Propelled by Shook’s impeccable bass groove, and inspired by artists like Shuggie Otis, Serge Gainsbourge, and Chico Buarque, Sun Marquee distils lessons learned and questions unanswered into an accessible collection of pop songs. The stand out tracks are Recovery, In Mind, Distance, Coastal and Crush.
Track one Recovery introduces the sound of the record straight away – summery, pop melodies and intricate layers of electronics that give this song, and the album, a unique feel. The chorus, “Must have faith/In her recovery” is bound to get stuck in your head, repeating over and over until you just have to put the song back on, just once more…
In Mind has a wonderful reverb rhythm guitar riff that kick starts the song while the other instruments are introduced from the first beat of the drum. A second guitar comes into action dispersing the melody for this track. The vocals glide over the top of these arrangements with another incredibly catchy chorus, “What do you have in mind?/What do you have in mind?” There’s a brief break down half way through which breaks the rhythm slightly and takes the track away from indie, electronic pop and in to rock.
The third and perhaps best song is Distance. The lyrics are beautiful in this track, they explore the idea of wanting something but feeling the pressure of time and your life slipping away from you, leaving you with an emptiness and therefore a distance between you and your dreams, “Bound by another/Bound by the rhythm of time/You distance yourself/You know it’s a long shot/You distance yourself/You’re ready to fall apart/You might feel better when you’re sure of your days/You distance yourself in so many ways”. Shook’s vocals on this track are soothing, thoughtful and full of wisdom but they do not lack energy.
Coastal is another fantastic track on Sun Marquee. It has a bluesy/jazzy bass riff alongside a surf tone guitar riff giving it that mellow sound. It sounds vintage with its soulful and do-wop style with an almost 1950s influence behind it. It’s soft, soothing and slightly sexy with Shook’s breathy vocals singing, “And if you’re leaving you better make it quick/And all you can plicate a bitter taste/If I ever get back to my California/If I ever get back to my California/I’ve been trying/Trying/Trying to get it right/But you know it’s hard/To take it easy”. Towards the end of the track, the influences turn to the 1970s prog/psychedelic rock sound which is a wonderful and welcome surprise.
Crush is the final outstanding song on Sun Marquee. It starts with a clappable, rolling drum beat with vocals that resemble George Harrison on tracks like Within You Without You. There’s that airy, spaced out quality which just adds more to this already nearly perfect song.
Sun Marquee is the soundtrack to have for summer. It’s soulful, summery and sexy. It has everything, all sorts of influences come through on these tracks from blues, jazz, pop to psychedelic rock, soul and funk. It’s a superb debut album. Sun Marquee is out now via Western Vinyl.