The Naked Sun are a four piece Americana/roots rock band based in Philadelphia. Their debut studio EP ‘Space, Place & Time’ offers four very high quality songs – the standard of which you’d swear came from a band far more established within the music world; the sound heavily influenced by many old style country rock themes.
True to the title, some gentle cosmic vibes lead off ‘Cosmic Wind’, as the band introduce themselves slowly, the musical layers gently unfolding. Tim and Drew’s dual guitars lay down a finger-picked blanket of sheer gorgeousness – a cross between Stephen Stills circa 1969 and Fleet Foxes – before Tim’s lead vocal adds an extra dimension of sadness. At the point where the rhythm section join, it is at first a disappointment the near-ambient folky vibes weren’t allowed time to explore the space farther still. However, with the arrival of the bass and drums, we experience a band that sounds so relaxed and natural, that too comes as a surprise; a band whose harder edge can be just as thrilling. The intricate guitar work still plays a part, but the more basic rhythms eventually win out; the drums play with old-style organ as the quartet go about their rootsy stomp. Some of the lead vocals are ragged, but that only lends more charm to their naturalistic approach. As things pull to their inevitable climax, the repetition of the phase “search the sunlit sky” acts as a more than reasonable hook …Then, as the tune fades, the atmosphere driven intro comes back to the fore, bringing things full circle. If you dig this, The Naked Sun will continue to please.
Rather more direct, ‘Debbie Diest’ allows comparisons with ‘Zuma’ and ‘Comes a Time’ era Neil Young, as The Naked Sun launch into a ragged waltz with a live in the studio sound. The natural lead vocals have a high edge that begs an easy comparison with Band of Horses man Ben Bridwell and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, while the louder electric guitar leads are worthy of Tweedy’s former band Uncle Tupelo. The basic arrangement rarely wavers from its initial intent, but at the same time, there’s just enough variation so not to allow the listener’s attention to drift. Of particular note throughout this piece is the way the mood changes just through Dave’s increase/decrease in drum volume. While the crash of the drum and the distorted guitar lines provide the core of the number, there’s more joy lurking underneath by way of a bar-room piano and very assured bassline. In terms of confidence, once again, the quartet more than prove their musical mettle, even though this may be more limited in appeal – geared mainly towards Crazy Horse and My Morning Jacket devotees.
With a shuffling drum and jangling guitars filling a space that sounds tailor made for some (absent) banjo action, ‘Fatigue’ occupies a musical space somewhere directly between the first two numbers. There’s an extra indie-rock edge fleshing out the rootsiness, before a rather groovy instrumental section leads into another huge climax, as Tim launches into a guitar solo that sounds like J. Mascis having learnt to play quietly. The pasting together of three distinctly different ideas ensures these five minutes rattle past in a very brisk fashion where the music is the most important factor, as the vocals tend to drift into the background. Even though it’s the least song-oriented of The Naked Sun’s material on this EP, it shows the band’s range of instrumental skills brilliantly. Bringing things back down to a very mellow level, ‘Rough Diamond’ is an excellent closer, as gently strummed and picked acoustics meet with gentle electric guitar lines that imitate a crying lapsteel, albeit with a little reverb. Meanwhile, a vocal softly cries and by the end of the second verse, the rhythm section join to mark time. Whereas parts of the other tracks hint at influence from roots rock revivalists with a revisionists slant, there’s something wholly old-school about this track. The guitar style in particular is very reminiscent of the likes of America and by the time the number rises to accommodate a booming rock drum, it’s so difficult (once again) not to be reminded of the legendary NY + Crazy Horse. Given The Naked Sun’s ability to play with reverb and distortion in such a controlled and emotive way, it would be superb to hear them tackle a suitably rambling version of Young’s own ‘Cortez The Killer’ (albeit without the cod reggae section present on the excellent ‘Live Rust’!).
This debut EP is so well realised – the songs shine constantly, while the instrumental sections shimmer and rock in equal measure. There are so many telling influences making up the core of The Naked Sun’s sound, but make no mistake, like the works of King Washington, they’re mixed up in such a way you’ll just love the end result. Great songs and great playing leads to ‘Space, Place & Time’ being a fantastic mood piece. It’s clearly the start of something special – take a listen using the widget below.
[A live recording is also available, featuring five numbers not included on ‘S, P&T’]