It’s funny how, as similar to one another as every Family Of The Year release has been to date, Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime feels like a significant departure and/or move forward for the band. That Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime is the group’s first album for Reprise after enjoying a celebrated 2LP+1EP stretch at Nettwerk is irrelevant – Family Of The Year has consistently grown and developed of their own accord and as the mood has moved them – but a slight shift in tone and viewpoint is obvious and makes all the difference here.
Was it simply the difference of trying to play the night versus the daytime hours as the title suggests which seemed to make such a change on this album? Maybe….
As a turntable’s stylus sinks into the A-side of Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime and picks up the opening of “Let Her Go,” the gently intoned and loverly melody of Joseph Keefe’s vocal and the warm, acoustic and mid-tempo arrangement of the song instantly begin to swell around listeners’ minds and not so much hook them as hold them, gently. Keefe’ s lyrics (like “Do you want to know how far I’ve come and how far I’m willing to go/ Do you want to see who I’ve been and who I’m gonna be”) and his introspective delivery of them easily pull at the heart strings of anybody who has ever been hurt deeply somebody who said, “for life” or “I do,” and will have them completely engaged. There is no epic moment where the song’s volume or energy spontaneously picks up, but there doesn’t have to be – even the hardest of sensibilities will feel their hearts begin to sweat (if not begin to melt) like a cold drink of water on a hot day here.
With the precedent for Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime set by “Let Her Go,” Family Of The Year spends most of the rest of the rest of the record refining and further setting the sound for listeners. On the A-side, the uncertain love anthem “Bitter Mind” (where Keefe almost laughably unloads couplets like, “Everything I ever really loved/Would scare me so much I’d show up drunk/ What if I got hurt/ And my feelings didn’t work/ I’m growing up in time/ With a bitter mind”) as well as the synth-y and danceable (but no less overwrought) “Hold Me Down” and the Seventies-esque, love-lost-in-Los-Angeles ballad “I’m The One” all remain firmly rooted in the ground broken by the album’s opening cut and, while some critics will certainly hope loudly for any change AT ALL as each song gives way to the next, there’s no denying that because they won hearts early in this running, Family Of The Year are afforded a lot of grace and know how to further caress and manipulate that organ for listeners, and never makes any gross error as they do so.
While it might be easy to expect that that the band would attempt to shift or somehow deviate course in the name of contrast for the B-side of Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime, Family Of The Year does quite the opposite and keeps true, upon the flip. “Numb” opens the B-side and threatens to leave listeners cold as a winsome piano figure patters out at a thoroughly inert pace. There too, Keefe mimics David Gilmour at his most repetitive and boring but, happily, it doesn’t take long for Family Of The Year to regain the rhythm that was set on the A-side of the album. In fact, particular standouts like “The Coast,” “Where Was I” and “”Raw Honey” all recall a solid and intensely melodic sense of the L.A. Folk scene which was such a radio staple through the Seventies and Eighties that it’s actually hard to believe the members of this band are an average of only about thirty-five years old. Throughout the B-side of Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime, Family Of The Year continually present a sincerity far beyond their years.
…And combined, there’s no denying that the A- and B-sides of Family Of The Year’s fourth album present a consistent and impressive growth for the band. While some critics may complain that, track-by-track, Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime is a little too consistent of tone for their ears (the forms, timbres and disposition of the songs are all very same-y – only “Hold Me Down” really breaks the mould), they’ll also have to mark just how strong the songs are, in the same breath. Simply said, Goodbye Sunshine Hello Nighttime is a really good album – the only thing that critics may say they’re hoping for on Family Of The Year’s next release is a bit of deviation of style between songs to help the album move a bit more fluidly. [Bill Adams]