by Dan Rickershauser (@d4nricks)
Gun Outfit hail from Los Angeles-via-Olympia, but sound like they could be from anywhere. Nearly every song off their latest, Dream All Over, gives off a deep sense of place, but the place is rarely the same. Sometimes their songs exude a folksy pastoral vibe you'd expect of an Appalachian-based band, complete with twang and slide guitars. A well-placed sprinkling of twirling sitar riffs in "Matters of the Head" creates a decidedly Eastern vibe. "Worldly Way" spits out psychedelic dissonance reminiscent of New Yorker royalty the Velvet Underground in their trippiest, noisiest freak outs. In more ways than one, the entire album feels like a road trip. There's a steady rhythm driving through an undercurrent of instrumentation, like a car driving through a world as it blurs on by.
All of this makes for an ambitious record that never really comes across as one. Their sound feels intrinsically organic right from the start, with whispers of guitar opening "Gotta Wanna" that feel like the gentle morning light leaking through a window. Vocals are handled by both Carrie Keith and Dylan Sharp, also the main songwriters of the band. The album's practically an even split of their two voices, each with a very different sound and style. They share verses on "Gotta Wanna," and a scattering of harmonies on select songs. Every other song goes to one or the other. Keith's rasp sounds at times like Kim Gordon, or in the very least serves a similar purpose, providing for a smooth calm voice amidst some of the album's most dissonant tunes. Her singing on the shape-shifting "Angelino" trudges flawlessly between sounding hopelessly sad, reassuringly happy and back again.
Sharp's singing comes off much more wry and matter-of-fact. "Matters of the Head" features an ever-changing momentum that bends to the will of Sharp's lyrics. "Today I am exposed" he sings as the song kicks into high gear. "Came to Be" closes with the wonderful concluding line "and that's what I know of paradise," before the next song, "Scorpios Vegas," kicks down the door with some scorching Doug Martsch-ian guitar riffs. "Pass On Through" puts Sharp in full on country crooner mode.
The guitar playing is impeccable throughout this record and almost always understated. It never steals the show, just subtly percolates in the background doing its thing. "Blue Hour" features sitar and guitar both duking it out before the guitar rips through the song with a scorching (albeit short) solo. The album as a whole is one that rewards a careful listener, and it takes some artistic restraint to keep the best sounding stuff toward the back of the sound mix. It doesn't suck you in, you have to dive in for it.
If there’s one song reminiscent of their current hometown Los Angeles, it’s the closing song “Only Ever Over.” As gentle as the album opener, the song feels sun-drenched, meandering, chill in a medicinally stoned kind of way. Consider it the best way to end any road trip, returning home.