1/11/2017

SUSTO - & I'm Fine Today (Album Review)

SUSTO & I'm Fine Today album cover

SUSTO's sophomore album, & I'm Fine Today comes right before an extensive tour that starts in Charlotte on Friday, January 13th, the day of the record's release, and doesn't end until well into the Spring. Along the way they'll be joined by some other awesome bands including their Charleston brothers Heyrocco (Charleston date February 25th at Music Farm) and The Lumineers who did some songs that you might have heard before. Basically, 2017 is going to be a huge year for SUSTO and the release & I'm Fine Today will serve as a starting point for them all. I think it's going to be more like getting launched out of a catapult.

Opening & I'm Fine Today is "Far Out Feeling", a song that includes all the themes of the album and seems to draw influence from Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" with the female vocals near the end. Listening to "Far Out Feeling" you can tell that this is going to be a record about family, friends, religion, love, and drugs, and trying to remain "Fine Today" through it all. That knowledge coupled with SUSTO's signature chill vibe makes for a head-bobbing and thoughtful start to the album.

The transition into "Hard Drugs" is smooth, and we get right into a Wilcoesque song about friendship and dark times revolving around, you guessed it: hard drugs. Then "Waves" comes in with what I like to think of as the & I'm Fine Today ode to the band's hometown of Charleston, urging listeners to look around a bit at this beautiful city and just soak it up. Next time you're pissed off about something trivial, just go for a walk around town with your headphones on and "Waves" crashing. You'll thank me later.

"Gay In The South" is written as a message of hope and confidence to those facing oppression or a general lack of love due to sexual orientation, race or gender. It tells people not to listen to any of the negativity coming from certain groups, and just find what makes you happy and stick to it, because in the future we'll be past the hate and onto better, more understanding times, regardless of what makes you who you are.

"Diamond's Icaro" has a very spiritual vibe to it, and if it's not about drugs then its got to be about some version of the afterlife where you gather with all your friends and relax together and just enjoy the company. I was wondering about the title so I looked it up and found out that an icaro is a shamanic song that gets whistled during ayahuasca ceremonies, and is supposed to be a sort of spiritual healing. You can make your own conclusions. The next song, "Mountain Top", fits perfectly in succession. It's got a similar spiritual vibe but a much more concrete meaning, telling a story of an acid trip on a mountain with a girl. There's a cool voiceover at the end that gives more details and helps to place the story in reality.

"Mystery Man" tells a story about falling in love with a musician wearing leopard pants and making a beautiful mess of a performance that blows everyone away. At the beginning the lyrics lead you to believe that there's some sort of relationship, but then it's revealed that it's just a daydream. The chorus is catchy and you can think of it as a love song and play it with someone you care about.

"Cosmic Cowboy" was in SUSTO's Sixthman Sessions video back in June, and after hearing it I immediately I started looking forward to the studio version. It's a goddamn new age Southern rock n' roll anthem, and everyone's going to scream along to it at SUSTO shows (I know I will). Before you listen to & I'm Fine Today you should have to sign a waiver in case you blow out your speakers playing "Cosmic Cowboy" too loud. Just sayin'.

Up next is "Havana Vieja", a haunting tale of lost love, something we can all relate to in one way our another. Sometimes You look back on a relationship and see all the signs that pointed to disaster, and that's what "Havana Vieja" is all about. It can seem to be going so well one day and completely fall apart the next day. In "Motorcycle Club" off the debut record, Justin sings: "I don't have a wife yet / had one close but I ran her all over / she left". I like to think of "Havana Vieja" as an elaboration on that story.

If you paid attention to the SUSTO Stories video series you've probably heard a version of "Wasted Mind", along with a little background on the writing of the song. I dig what they did with it in the studio; starting out slow and quiet, with a pause for a moment and then a major crank up to finish things off. Closing out & I'm Fine Today is "Jah Werx", which was the second single released from the album and is a super chill and groovy song. It's an awesome way of ending the record on a positive and hopeful note, reminding us that everything is fine today. Now go listen to the album.

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