Question: are Sundays still perceived as the laziest day of the week? Do people still try to master the lie-in on this day, snuggling up in bed as long as they can before the guilt of getting nothing done kicks in, if not before their bladder reminds you of how much you drank the night before. There surely must be a breed of these people still about, as the distaste of going to work on Monday morning can’t have lost its bitterness. Even though many now work on Sundays and there’s hundreds of modern distractions and enticements to draw us from our bed, there’s simply has to be a devoted few enjoying their duvet, even if they are checking their Twitter feed from beneath the covers.
This lazy image of Sunday bed-lounging also conjures up a sound, too, and MayMay might have made a strong candidate for “Best Album to Soundtrack a Sunday Morning Lie-in.” As might be expected from that accolade, MayMay’s music is lounging, lulling, and lazy. Those are compliments, though, as this is where And So I Place You In The Setting Sun delivers it appeal; MayMay (real name Laurel Simmons) makes music that sounds made mainly for those cosy in bed.
Opening track “Setting Sun” is a dreamy acoustic number that gently pushes itself forward with calming vocal harmonies and a sort of reassuringly hazy drone in the background. Much like the title also suggests, it’s a track that has a sort of quality that casts it in a low light, and serves as quietly welcoming introduction to Simmons’ solo debut. The night doesn’t come after, though; if anything, Setting Sun continues along for the next few songs with a similar sort of misty-eyed weariness. “Stories We Lived By” teeters around being a straight and simple acoustic waltz with breaks of unassuming electric guitar, while “If It Remains Light” goes up a notch with slightly more aggressive strums, and some background jingling and organ. The core is still the same for these songs, and if you’re swept away by the opening track, then you’ll seep into the tracks that follow easily enough. Become completely absorbed, and you might not completely register the fuller sound that’s emerging around Simmons and her acoustic guitar.
Setting Sun is album of two halves, though, and it doesn’t shy away from this fact. The first five tracks are guitar-driven while the remaining four are piano-based. A dramatic split like this might spell disaster for any other artist, but Simmons has made good choice here. Tracks sound more comfortable next to each other, and the additional instruments held bind them together, acting as a sort of glue that keeps it all together (it’s an organ that introduces the point where the record splits). Simmons’ piano songs are just are strong as their guitar counterparts, and while you might come out of the album liking one or two songs more than others, you’re unlikely to favour either of the two.
But, as said, Setting Sun is a hushed record that’s best suited for a stereotypical Sunday. It doesn’t stay caught up in the same kind of pretty aimlessness that it begins with, which is probably for the better. Setting Sun would perhaps more aptly described as the soundtrack to an actual Sunday where you catch sight of rain on your window just as you were about to go out (“If It Remains Light”), or watch as grey clouds loom over the landscapes outside your window (“In The Fields”). At the same time, though, the album can sound quite restrictive and confined; Simmons may sound like she’s exploring more than that cosy feeling of being in bed, but she sounds like she exploring no more than the other rooms in the house, or the back garden at most. While this makes a few sonic effects more charming (the police sirens at the end of “If It Remains Light,” for example), it can leave you wishing that she had stretched her feet a bit more.
Thankfully there are a few moments when she sounds like she’s really moving forward (and even outwards) while simultaneously sounding inviting. “The Fall” evokes a walk in autumn leaves, but “Undertow” is the best example, like’s she’s started her own little march into and across town. With plenty of shakers, warming and gently upbeat chords and melodies, it’s the most pleasing song of the album to listen to over and over. But she follows it with closing track “Winter Air,” which matches its chilly title, with gentle piano chords sounding like the musical equivalent of frosted over grass, as wisps of guitar come and go, like bursts of wind rapping on the window. The track finishes with a series of low and high hums, like the sound of your electric heater pumping out artificial hot air. Sometimes it’s best to just stay inside and keep warm, but here’s hoping next time round she ventures out of the house a little more. After all, that Sunday feeling only lasts for a day.