Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers are a genre defying musical collective from Phoenix, Arizona who can't be cornered by limitations or perceptions of sound. The musicians themselves say that Gus D. Wynns is not real, which is true because the sounds they make are truly unreal. Their music wildly runs the range of Indie rock tempered with Americana flourishes, to shoegazing space rock, to modern synth driven disco.
Last August Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers released their eponymous debut album featuring Jon Gengle (Guitar, Keyboard, Vocals), Tyler Matock (Guitar, Vocals), Ian Kelman (Guitar, Vocals, Pedal Steel, Lap Steel), Sam Bohlman (Bass), and Connor Pritchard (Drums). On April 10th they will release their new EP Is This Too Real? with Jesse Gray (Guitar) joining the fray. The new record leans toward a mix of pop-rock, blue-eyed soul with new wave touches, and indie rock. They have released two singles in advance for the new record, first in January with "FYRE," and following that up with February's "Faun."
Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers self-titled debut album was one of the most fascinating records released last year. It's two distinct sides spinning around a short instrumental interlude that display the very different sides of the bands musical interests and intent. It also shows off just how talented this lineup is as they explore every genre they can sonically approach with their musical identity somehow still intact. By the time it ends you wonder though if it's the same band from when it began, so you play it again.
"Day to Day" is the opening track filled with lush harmonies, catchy hooks, and sunshine that comes on easy like an Indie Pop anthem about being overwhelmed by the trappings of the modern world. It's a relatable tune that immediately draws you into the album lyrically and musically. When your fed up with the news, the media, and your neighbors, spin this track and you'll start to feel immediately better. Following in its wake, "Such A Fool" a stripped down pop tune that continues the sunshine bend. It's simplicity evokes Friends era Beach Boys, with a descending guitar hook that will tickle your brain. It's dreamy and delightful bedroom pop that will have you smiling slightly as you stare at shapes in the clouds on a Spring day.
Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers hit a bluesy rock groove with "Badlands," a deep desert, psychedelic vibe emerges from its shadows, and the imagery of the lyrics becomes cinematic. It's a great song to jam if you're on the run or driving in the desert at 2am, with whiskey waiting at home and approaching fears at your back. A brilliant track that evokes as much from the words as it does from the mystical music wrapping around them like ephemeral smoke. "Old Curiosity" returns to the sunshine pop with a mix of tropical rhythms and psychedelic pastiche. If "Badlands" was driving through the desert all night, this is waking up in your car in Mexico, staring at the ocean through bleary eyes, still slightly dreaming.
With a crackle of a vinyl record, "Love You" turns toward an anachronistic doo-wop croon. It's an unexpected turn, but this album is filled with those. It's a classic torch tune that wouldn't seem out of place at a sock hop slow dance in the early 1960s. It evokes a warmth, and a time that none of us were alive to remember, but somehow the nostalgia makes you feel perfectly at home. "Drifting From Sun to Sun" kicks into strange space rock synth territory to create a psychedelic mini-masterpiece. It's a dreamy shoegazing tune that immediately makes you feel as though the drugs just kicked in. It's slow, seductive, beautiful and a fan favorite for good reason. It feels like the crossroads where Hawkwind would meet Tangerine Dream, with a better grip on the subtle pop hook buried beneath the layers of hazy sonic reverie.
"Interlude" is a 95 second spacey synth driven instrumental that breaks up the record perfectly, because when "Icarus" starts, it feels like a whole new band has shown up. There's more than a hint of New Wave influences to be found in this stunner. Drum machines, synthesizers, keyboards and airy vocals that maintain the dreamy vibe where the first side left off. The vocals ensure that you know it's still Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers, but the vibe is completely new. It's catchy and it's the first track that could be easily remixed into an EDM club anthem.
That song moves seamlessly into "Daedalus" and it feels like the 1980s have exploded into the grooves of this record. There are some mirror moves going on here, and this track is like a New Wave version of the doo wop tune from the first half, while "Icarus" was a bit like a keyboard take on the territory explored by "Drifting From Sun to Sun." This would have been a huge hit beloved by girls in oversized t-shirts circa 1984. Brilliant nostalgia for a different time when new romanticism was all the rage.
"Good N Gone" introduces a funky disco vibe and moves your consciousness further off the rails and this soulful little number seduces you with more than a little Motown going on. The spacey synths are oddly, the only thing keeping you rooted in the modern age, but it still astonishes the ears at just how brilliant Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers are at hopping from genre to genre. The fat bass that begins "Moonlite" really sets you into the groove and this time more than a bit of Prince appears to be on the menu. This could be a Paisley Park production if you didn't know better. By this point, you've forgotten the guitar pop of the first side and you are dancing in your chair clutching headphones to your hair or just flat out getting your groove on all across the room. This things got soul to spare.
After the hypnodisco of "Moonlite," the spare piano that kicks of "Damn Baby" is almost shocking, but don't worry it get weird and groovy pretty soon, with fuzz bass and a croon. It's a song that sounds so familiar for the slow soulful hooks, but it's a trick of the ears that evokes every slow burning hit out of the Blue Eyed Soul movement from the 1980s--think Style Council at their most intoxicating. It's like getting lost in a slow and easy dream you don't want to end for four minutes. Hypnotic and narcotic, while keeping the hook in mind the entire time. The album finishes with the brilliantly dreamy "Sailing," which again returns to Paisley Park territory, or Midnight Vultures era Beck. It's also got its share of a Motown/Stax pop vibe in the chorus, but it's got just enough funk to finish the groove of the entire second half of the album.
The first side of guitar pop contrasts with the keyboard works on the second, yet somehow Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers pull it off perfectly. It's a calling card to the world of wild variety. The contrast makes your head spin in retrospect, which is why your drawn to play it again and again. Easily one of the best albums that emerged from Arizona in 2019, Gus D. Wynns & The Breakers will follow up this musical odyssey with the new EP "Is This Real" on April 10th, 2020. They explore more sides of their sound with the energetic indie rock of "Fyre" featuring nods to turn of the century rock'n'roll like The Strokes and the synthpop dreamy leanings of the mesmerizing "Faun." - Written by Mitchell Hillman
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