Sundowner - Four One Five Two (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Four One Five Two (2007)

Red Scare

Those who felt Oh! Calcutta! had too little of Chris McCaughan can now shut up. Seriously. Sundowner, and this debut, Four One Five Two should be more than enough for fans of the Lawrence Arms' less snotty side. Anyone familiar with his body of work could probably tell you McCaughan's style would thrive in a singer-songwriter setting and it does.

Largely, the minimalist approach of Sundowner allows McCaughan's oft-overlooked knack for storytelling to take center stage. Each of these 12 tracks have a tangible solemnity, be it urgent ("The Sea of Lights"), haunting ("Midsummer Classic"), introspective ("Cold White North") or otherwise, emotion seeps from the speakers but it's never, you know, whiny. Jenny Choi's cello and keys, along with backup vocals on a few tracks, keep Sundowner's sound from being too tenuous and compliment McCaughan's somber vocal delivery and guitar playing perfectly. Album opener "Steal Your Words" and goosebump-inducer "Endless Miles" are prime examples of this.

There are two great versions of Lawrence Arms songs found on Four One Five Two. "My Boatless Booze Cruise" is an unexpected yet welcome inclusion and McCaughan does it justice. As a fan of the band, it's awesome hearing Chris cover one of Brendan's songs. "100 Resolutions," arguably McCaughan's most popular song penned for the Larry Arms, loses some of its urgency sonically here but gains a certain earnestness in an acoustic setting. And let's be honest; most of us would gladly shave five years off our lives to be able to write lyrics like that.

Four One Five Two at face value is a solid batch of singer-songwriter material and while it certainly helps, one doesn't have to be a connoisseur of the Lawrence Arms to enjoy this record. Four One Five Two has more than enough great moments to stand on its own as a quality release from a strong band and not just a side project or solo album.