Every year as I make my resolutions for the new year, I tend to make a list of things that are both attainable and something to strive for. Brush my teeth before bed? Hopefully I can nail that one. Travel the country by train? Eh, more wishful thinking than anything. I like to think myself as an abstract thinker, if not one who just overthinks everything. As the great George Carlin perfectly said, “I got a lot of ideas – problem is, most of ‘em suck”. But if you can’t think and dream boldly, what’s the point?
Sometimes I just gravitate towards the grandiose and that’s why I adore Sound & Fury by Sturgill Simpson, my favorite album of 2019.
From the onset, the listener is in the driver’s seat as the radio crashes from static to station. Similar to Queens Of The Stone Age’s monumental 2002 record, Songs For The Deaf, stations sway from the evangelical to the conspiratorial before eventually opening to a portal of mind bending music.
With Sound & Fury’s brooding opener “Ronin”, you can imagine cruising down the highway as the scenery in your periphery blurs. You are on a journey that continues to pick up speed as songs like “Remember To Breathe” and “Sing Along” encourage the listener to focus on the open road of their mind. Once “A Good Look” warms up, it is as if you are in a car chase throughout the city streets like you were inside an exploitation movie of the 60’s and 70’s. All that’s missing is a police cruiser losing control and barreling into a farmer’s stand of oranges.
“Make Art Not Friends” is where Sound & Fury is not only an adventure into the exciting unknown, it’s a revelation and celebration of one’s self assurance and worth as an artist.
This song and phrase had become my mantra as the year came to a close. It is an encouraging reminder to continue your personal path. Where it can come off as pessimistic, “Make Art Not Friends” is anything but that. It’s permission to stay true to yourself. Make art, but never at the expense at who you are.
As a fan of Sturgill Simpson, I never expected an album like this from him. But after listening to this album dozens of times over, I can’t imagine another artist doing anything like this. You get more stoner-rock vibes than alternative country off this album. To witness someone some dominant in the alt-country country world put out an album of this magnitude is a ballsy move. It’s a refreshing change of pace for him and it’s a triumph at that.
2019 has given us many career-defining albums and I hope that next year brings many more joyous moments in music.