If our math is right, Self Awareness Through Macrame is the ninth studio album from Sonny Smith’s band Sonny & the Sunsets. It’s easy to lose count. Sonny Smith, the multifaceted artist from San Francisco, has worked with countless groups over the years and has adopted too many aliases to name here. The songs on Self Awareness Through Macrame were recorded during the pandemic and feature bandmates Josiah Flores, Ava Lynch, Tahlia Harbour, and Rusty Miller with “a few other friends sprinkled around towards the end.”
Sonny’s influences are instantly recognizable. A listener could easily attribute the namesake of “Waiting”, the album’s opener, to either the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You” or the Rolling Stones’ “I Am Waiting” and there’d be no argument. The song is a perfect two-minute slice of jangly, upbeat mid-sixties inspired pop that is so sweet it’ll give your ears a cavity. The minimalist, acoustic “City Life” has Sonny using bright and friendly chords that contrast his singing lyrics about a largely ugly world with lines like, “metal boxes round and square, rolling ‘round everywhere, city trees, city roots, watching marches, watching fascist boots.” Most songs are kept under three minutes. The midtempo “Shadow” being the first of two exceptions. Utilizing a peppy, repeated lead guitar line and a memorable chorus, “Shadow” may have you singing along on your first listen.
“E.S.P.”, the second song on the album’s B side, is the only other track to break the three-minute mark. With an emotional piano and beautiful vocal harmonizing lovingly touched with reverb, the song makes for a standout moment that recalls The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. The adorable spoken word “How to Make a Ceramic Dog” is quite literally an instructional song about how to make a ceramic dog. Self Awareness Through Macrame is concluded with “Sit-Ups”, a song featuring a piano employing a two-chord refrain that suggests something the Velvet Underground may have tacked onto one of their more outré experiments. The quirky track feels like an odd way to end this collection of pop songs. Regardless, Self Awareness Through Macrame is an enjoyable listen, one that doesn’t wear out its welcome and never asks too much of the listener.