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The Sundown Song EP

[Brassland; 2013]

By ; March 27, 2013 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Clogs are a band that have made a name for themselves with the names of others. Or, to be more accurate, their last album (The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton) brought them plenty of attention not only for its exquisite music, but also for its guests: Sufjan Stevens, Matt Berninger, and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden. Clogs’ main member, however, is something a celebrity himself. Padme Newsome has always been tactful and precise with his musical moments, and his work for The National over the years has shown how brilliantly he can punctuate a song with a string, brass, or woodwind arrangement.

The latest release from Clogs, though, is something of a dramatic turn away from the album that it leads on from while also providing “an ending of what Clogs once were as well as a reaffirmation of what they continue to be.” For the most part, The Sundown Song EP is a stripped down affair, consisting of nothing more than Newsome and a baritone ukulele. But even with a four stringed instrument in hand his arrangements are still stately and affecting. Opening track “A Hobson’s Choice” is quickly picked number that owes plenty to traditional folk music and subsequently plays like an Alasdair Roberts song, with fast-paced lyrics that weave a tale that can pass you by if you don’t give it your attention. A few streaks of strings play out in the interludes, and Susannah Keebler’s wordless harmonies sound like a bird peeking through the thick leaves of a grand tree. Newsome’s voice, though insistent with its quick lyrical turns, is the primes focus here, sounding assured and content, all while sounding effortless.

The calm continues into the next track, “The World Loves Me,” which strips away the setup even more. It’s on this track that the main lyrical theme of the EP makes itself most obvious, reeling off from the glory of life from Lady Walton, and finding contentment in the stillness of the world. Birds and other creatures whirr and chirp away in the background, but otherwise Newsome is alone with his thoughts. “I love the world, and it loves me/ That’s the way it ought to be” he sings, not complicating how simply his emotions can be expressed. His Andrew Bird-like whistling and his deep breathes at the end of the track adds a strange sense of unease to it all, but it doesn’t last long as we’re soon dealt the final title track from the EP. Backed by the Mallacoota Community Choir, the music becomes more soothing than before. Voices rises and fall gently like a passing wind as Newsome describes a day in its simplest form: “The sun comes up and the sun goes down / The hands on the clock keep going round and round.” Capturing peacefulness in all its glory, listening to “The Sundown Song” is like sitting for hours on a clear day, watching shadows move across the landscape.

Newsome doesn’t say much over these three songs, but that’s kind of the point: there’s not a lot to be said when life is just this nice. He might be accused of putting out too much at once on “A Hobson’s Choice,” and some may find “The World Loves Me” a little banal in comparison to his previous works, but the EP is a well-executed example of simplicity. Even though the elaborate arrangements are gone from the surface, they’re still there in the way the vocal harmonies ebb and flow. The Sundown Song is a pleasingly short EP that closes a chapter in Clogs’ career and shows that Newsome is quite definitely more than capable of making a name for himself without much of anything or anyone backing him up.


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