Sunset Closeup are an alternative rock duo consisting of producer/guitarist Andrew Amsden (Hello Clarice and GTFO) and Melbourne singer Mark Pearl (Texture Like Sun). The group were formed during the 2020 Covid pandemic after Andrew had left Los Angeles after a decade and settled in Portland, Oregon.
The group were named after the film noir classic Sunset Boulevard and they are now releasing the first fruits of their labour. These first releases consist of three sonically eclectic songs that are all highly different yet united by a signature sound.
Never is a brooding alternative rock track that opens with low-end acoustics, soon joined by muscular drums and rich, deep bass. This is augmented by slick wah-wah guitar that provides some subtle rhythmic sophistication and is highly effective even though its low in the mix.
This lays the bedrock for Mark Pearl’s earthy authentic vocals, bringing to mind Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and U2’s Bono, though with an altogether distinctive style of his own. The first verse establishes a firm groove with Mark delivering his distinctive vocals in a low register, backing vocals harmonising on certain lines.
He gets to display his considerable range with the euphoric chorus hook featuring the memorable refrain, “I’ll reach out for more”. After the second chorus it enters an interlude section where the music breaks down and we hear the haunting lines, “Never gonna leave this alive, taking a long time to fly….”. The music gears back up for the third verse followed by one final blast through the anthemic chorus.
It’s amazing to note how concise it is at only two minutes and thirty seconds, yet feels a perfectly complete and rounded arrangement. As with all with the tracks here, Sunset Closeup strike a fine balance between alternative and commercial, rock and (credible) pop.
Soulless is longer at just under three minutes and shows a more electronic influence under the bonnet of their sound, starting out sounding like U2 with delay-drenched guitar over a pumping kick and restless hi-hat rhythms.
The pulsating synths then provide a fresh energy and texture to the sound, bringing to mind early 90’s Depeche Mode with a similarly poignant and mournful vocal performance from Mark Pearl, comparable to Dave Gahan. A more modern comparison would be the with Brandon Flowers of The Killers, another band who know how to successfully bridge the gap between alternative rock and pop.
Soulless has an alluring, mesmeric quality that draws the listener in. This is partly due to Mark Pearl’s enigmatic, haunting vocal melody along with the intoxicating, sophisticated music that envelops his voice. You can hear their wealth of influences distilled into a sonic alchemy and this track in particular would make a strong single choice with its radio friendly sound.
Even, the third track released so far, shows another side to their musical oeuvre. It’s built around a crystal-clear picked acoustic guitar motif and subtly insistent drums that gather complexity and intricacy as the arrangement gradually expands. The tribal tom-tom patterns give the sound a driving, potent momentum, contrasted by the gentle rhythmic rustle of tambourine.
From its opening bars, the music has a memorable quality. The haunting, seductive vocal melody on the intro immediately casts a spell on the listener once again. Andrew Amsden’s guitar work particularly shines on this track, a symbiotic blend of subtle acoustic and electric guitars that merge seamlessly.
Once again, the U2 of The Joshua Tree era comes to mind, and the understated musical backing really allows Mark Pearl to give a truly expressive performance, full of extemporisations. His vocal gymnastics always serve the song and as the song swells to its climax, the most emotive anthems of Coldplay are another apposite comparison, along with shades of George Ezra.
Overall, these three songs from Sunset Closeup show a new group emerging with a fully formed creative vision and signature sound. The combination of producer and guitarist Andrew Amsden’s various talents with Mark Pearl’s powerful and cathartic vocals results in a consistent musical synergy.
All three songs are first rate, managing to balance artistic integrity with commercial viability and any of them would make good single release for radio. I, for one, cannot wait to hear a full length album from Sunset Closeup and this initial material should help them deservedly build up an adoring and devoted fanbase.