Sunshine & The Rain | Beneath The Stars (Ernest Jenning Record Co.)

After a promising debut album last year, husband-wife duo Sunshine & The Rain is back with their follow up Beneath The Stars. One of the biggest reliefs of the new album is that the Moreys (Justin and Ashley) didn’t opt to make the same album twice, but rather expand their sound. While the big, abrasive, fuzzy guitars charmingly used on their debut are scaled back here, they’re counterbalanced with the additions of keyboards and emphasis on vocal arrangements.

One of the charming effects that this change has is that the songs have a dreamy, almost show tunes quality. Imagine an indie rock version of Grease meets High School Musical, but better. Beneath the Stars ends up feeling thematic with musical references to the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.

“It’s All in Your Mind” opens the album upbeat with bittersweet lyrics set to deceptively sweet melodies. The song carries over the sound from the last album, until the following tracks. Rather than fuzzy guitar and bass, we get shimmering, ‘80s-tinged synths. While the sound is different from the last album, it all sounds very much like Sunshine & The Rain. “We’ll figure it out” starts off with a dark low bass synth, and the arrangement sees the duo play with dynamics. Whereas everything on 2017’s In the Darkness of My Night was loud and in your face, the music here moves more creatively. This is continued on the following track “Today” when the vocals are almost bare near the end of the track.

The second half of the album sees more exploration with pianos, and gets more into show tunes-esque territory. “Thank You for Believing in Me” tiptoes being cheesy, but manages to pull off feeling like a successful Beatles/Beach Boys throwback that’s also modern and fresh. “Too Much Too Soon” feels like a lost b-side gem from a musical like Grease. “Just Stay” and “All We Need” both continue the show tunes-inspired vibe, but with the same art rock twist of the album. Last track “I Won’t Forget It” is definitely the finale showstopper of the album. It’s a shame that the duo didn’t find a way to add a giant gang chorus vocal for effect, however, that could potentially throw the song into cheesy territory.

Overall, this album sounds like high school, but in a good way, and not in the emo throwback way either. If anything, Beneath the Stars feels more like a fun classic love story. If In the Darkness of My Night was the sound of summer and school being out, Beneath The Stars is school being back in session, but trying to make the best of it. In a way, this almost feels like a better, alternate reality version of Sleigh Bell’s Jessica Rabbit and Kid Kruschev releases. No doubt there are similarities between the duos, but it would be unfair to compare them too much. As a fan of both bands, Sunshine & The Rain have proven to be much more interesting without overly relying on novelty, and without trying too hard. | Michael Cheng

Listen to Sunshine & The Rain on their Bandcamp page.

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