Though Sunshine Boys have been referred to as indie rock royalty, they prefer to think of themselves in more modest terms: as three musicians with the good fortune to find each other. The Chicago-based group features Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies, Mysteries of Life), Dag Juhlin (Poi Dog Pondering, The Slugs), and Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello, Justin Roberts).
Work and Love marks the band’s second full-length release since their inception in 2016. Like their acclaimed 2018 debut, Blue Music, the record was engineered by Matt Allison (Alkaline Trio, The Webstirs). Work and Love finds Sunshine Boys’ urgent, melodic pop songs augmented by acoustic guitar, piano, and stunning string arrangements (from Dag’s Poi Dog Pondering bandmate, Susan Voelz).
The band has ventured into new territory by working with Chicago film director Jennifer Reeder (Knives and Skin) on a video for “Infinity Girl,” the first single from Work and Love. A second single, “Summertime Kids,” is out now and can be seen/heard below.
Sunshine Boys have toured with Love Smith’s former Blake Babies band mate Juliana Hatfield; they have supported The Vulgar Boatmen and Frisbie at venues in Chicago, and were part of the 2019 American Music Festival line-up at Fitzgerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn, Illinois.
The first thing you immediately notice as lead-off track “I Was Already Gone” kicks in is the crispness of the production; the sound is absolutely bright and equals the boisterousness of the song, which is a familiar flavor that I love. That mid-’80’s “college” sound, filled with hooks, harmonies and melodies (slightly tempered with a few skewed chords for good measure). “Infinity Girl” sounds an awful lot like a certain beloved Athens, Georgia band known for their “jangly Rickenbacker” sound and the vocals recall that band’s singer’s delivery – and it’s a feeling of warmth that overtakes me as I can easily embrace this band’s sound. “Summertime Kids” is a wise choice for a second single from this album – it has that “radio friendly” (yes, I know – “radio”?) sound that suits this time of year; “In Between Time” is one of those glorious moments that starts fast, then slows the pace on the choruses and it works perfectly. I could probably go on and break down each song, but I think you would do best to get a copy of this revelatory album and enjoy its 12 tracks yourselves.
There are a slew of bands that Sunshine Boys conjured up memories of: Dumptruck, Miracle Legion, Get Smart, Dreams So Real, Winter Hours, etc. – and if this was 1986, Work and Love would have been in very steady/high rotation on my college radio show. Which to me is gold, because in the current climate, we need to reconnect to a sound that equals joy.
Work and Love is currently available