Park Bench Smile
All of Steve Gunn’s distinct trademarks can be heard on his Matador Records debut. The singer/songwriter’s rich, ruminative baritone colors the slowly rolling folk rocker “Heavy Sails,” while “Ancient Jules” features his hypnotically circular guitar picking and love for centrifugal rhythms dipped lightly in lysergic ether. What’s noticeably different from previous efforts is the music’s efficiency that reflects Gunn’s growing interest in songcraft; he has tightened up his compositions considerably. On “Night Wander,” for example, the band’s sumptuously expansive groove -- equal parts hippie-era folk-rock and stoner boogie -- is fitted neatly into a tune that barely cracks the four-minute mark. Just as expertly tailored is “Ark,” a gorgeous psychedelic ballad that encapsulates the album’s overarching themes: Movement, rootlessness and the long and winding journey that must be undertaken to find oneself.