ABOUT THE RECORD
“The Larger Half of Wisdom” is named after a quote by wilderness activist Ernest Oberholtzer (aka Ober). Beginning in 1922, he lived on Mallard Island on Rainy Lake in Northern Minnesota for a half century. He graduated from Harvard but left his degree in the civilized world to defend those beautiful waters from damming, logging, and resource use, including commercial fishing for sturgeon.
Ober traveled thousands of miles on uncharted waters with his Ojibwe companion Dedaabaswewidang, or Billy Magee, mapping the areas north of Lake Winnipeg with 2 guns, fishing gear, 700 pounds of food, and their 18ft canoe. Ober agreed with his Canadian colleague Arthur Hawkes, who called the border waters "an outdoor university with a campus of 14,500 square miles. Ober said, "It contains the larger half of wisdom—the part that cannot be taught within-doors."
All of Sundowners grew up in Northern Minnesota and have a great respect for the lakes, the woods, and the well being of the outdoors in that part of the world. Growing up spending most summers and winters outdoors will do that to you.
Recorded and Mixed by Andy Mathison
in Minneapolis and Saint Paul in the summer of 2012.
get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mastered by Dave Williams at Rock Among Us
All album art and layout by Justin Francis at BrainBox Designs
All music and lyrics by Sundowners
Out on DIRT CULT RECORDS
Band maturation is an interesting journey. I’m not going to say Gnomes and Glaciers was a good album. It was fair, but didn’t get you caught up from the get go, nor did it slow burn its way into heavy rotation. The 7” was a huge leap forward; songs sticking immediately in your head, warranting the getting up and down to flip the record for multiple spins. That can happen a lot with the no-filler shorter format. The Larger Half of Wisdom is obviously the fruition of the direction headed and the time elapsed between releases. The new LP is quite simply a stunner and not just because each song is immediately hummable. The embellishments that add the extra little “umpf” or “whoah!” throughout the album (the small guitar flourish in “Blue Collar Salute,” the slide guitar-esque solo in “Right Down Broadway,” and the high backing vocals in “Bird World Problems”) bring that little where-did-that-come-from? shiver up your spine. The loose theme of the record and fantastic art and layout ice this cake and are going to speak volumes if you’re big into hugging trees and petting animals. Sundowners have offered up a top 10 for 2013… easy.
–Matt Seward at RAZORCAKE
First things first: this isn't Sundowner, the mainly acoustic project of Chris McCaughan from The Lawrence Arms, so no getting overly excited because you think it's a new, secret release. However, Sundowners' (from Minneapolis) second long player is the kind of record that deserves a fairly high level of excitement and for those already aware of the band, The Larger Half of Wisdom will represent a step up from previous releases, whilst for those enticed into listening to it for whatever reason, it is hoped that they would be pleasantly surprised by what they encounter.
Previous Sundowners material has been good and last year's self-titled 7-inch (also on Dirt Cult Records) was a then-high point for the band in terms of quality. However, it doesn't take long for The Larger Half of Wisdom - opener "Bluegills and Black Birds" to overshadow all their earlier work. Yes, those first few moments of the track will make one think 'Ah, another band that would sit well with the Fest crowd' but once the harmonizing kicks in and the distinct ending to the song plays out, it's apparent that there's more than that sort of thing happening.
There's a lot to be found and heard on The Larger Half of Wisdom and all of it is built around melody and hooks, with the occasional off the wall moment thrown in for good measure. This record crosses a number of genres but at the end of the day, melodic punk rock encapsulates it perfectly. At moments it brings to mind Timeshares, more for the overall feel that the sound delivers: A fresh, summer-like quality that has more going on that is initially apparent. Some people might file this under 'pop-punk' but this is really a multi-faceted beast, and any pop element heard is purely that, as opposed to any pop-punk leanings, and that comes through in the melodies and harmonies within the record.
At least a third of this album is of the highest quality with those tracks being "Belly Up, Buckle Down," "Bird World Country," "The Language of Man" and "Dig Deeper" - the latter features a great, warm vocal performance and is constructed around a strong melodic base that drives the song along so sweetly; this was initially the track that stood out above all the others upon first listen.
-Rich27 at PUNKNEWS.ORG
Before we begin, this is not a review of the Lawrence Arm’s guitarist Chris McCaughan’s solo project entitled Sundowner. This is an album review of Minneapolis punk band Sundowners. But, don’t be deterred from reading on. Despite the lack of lyrics solely based on drinking yourself into oblivion with friends while living in Chicago, this band is mind-blowingly good.
Sundowners is a four piece band hailing from Minneapolis, MN. Despite their roots, they are somehow able to escape that stereotyped ‘Midwest’ sound that has gradually taken over not only the region but The Fest as well. The sound is in there somewhere; it’s just handled with more craft and diversity than with other bands.
Nine months after releasing their 7” on Dirt Cult Records, they have followed up with their second full length album entitled The Larger Half of Wisdom. The album portrays the similar melodic punk tendencies seen in their last release. But, there is also a distinct feeling of a slight transition and a coming into their own as the band ages and progresses. Although Sundowners’ harmonies stand out in each of their releases, there is something about this album that takes them over the top, in a positive way. Saying that the guitar riffs are hauntingly catchy still does them no justice. There are songs on this album that will stay stuck in your head for days, like an unhealthy thirst that can only be quenched by another full listen to all 13 songs. It’s catchy in an almost damning Taylor Swift “We Are Never Getting Back Together” way. For over a week, it seemed like I listened to nothing but Sundowners by day and dreamt with The Larger Half of Wisdom as my soundtrack by night. Chris Mason of Dirt Cult seemed to have a similar experience. He stated, “…I listened to this about 4 weeks straight before I finally decided I should put on an other record.” The album is that powerful and that enjoyable.
Upon a first listen, The Larger Half of Wisdom comes off as just plain good. Punk with melodies written by 4 guys who grew up in northern Minnesota with a solid album reflecting that. Upon a second listen, however, the album begins to take root and grow. Songs like “Belly Up, Buckle Down” and “Heavy Cards” begin to stand out as a couple of the best, strongest, and catchiest songs on the album both musically and lyrically. One cannot help but draw comparisons between “Bird World Country” to any song from the Against Me! catalogue. The method of rotating rapid speaking then singing lyrics of social discontent with one’s surrounding community harkens back to a time when Laura Jane Grace was still known as Tom Gabel. Similarly, the song “Hold On” parallels Propagandhi in musical style, backing vocals, and topic matter. Whether the incorporation of the above bands’ trademark sounds was intentional or accidental, neither song comes off as an ode. Sundowners sound like themselves, despite our frames of reference. Then you get to “Dig Deeper”, possibly the strongest song on the album. I dare you to not spend a full hour listening to this song on repeat. It is the welcomed wild card to the album. From the dual paralleled vocals at the beginning of the song to the melodic and layered chorus, the song stands out amongst the rest as the cleanest and most polished. It is the song that could make it on the radio as a single, that is, if it didn’t have a soul.
From beginning to end, The Larger Half of Wisdom is a complex album. Musically, it is about as diverse as melodic punk can get. Lyrically, it is loaded with witty thoughts and phrases which make you take a step back and think. Overall, it’s a breath of fresh air in this stuffy Midwest music niche.
Is indie-punk even a thing? Is it possible to mesh sweet, occasionally twinkly melodies with slightly less gruff, but still kind of raspy vocals and speed it up until it’s acceptable to put in your ‘summer punx road trip’ playlist? Arguably, yes, because Sundowners have done it. The Larger Half Of Wisdom is definitely not your average punk record, and it’s far better than your average indie-rock record. Made for summer days and BBQs, this is the perfect record to stick on when you’ve got friends with less-than-eclectic tastes vying for the iPod.
If it weren’t for a sardonic, wisecracking lyrical agenda, these tunes would probably be highly radio friendly. ‘Bird World Country’, with its scathing attack on inequality has a stupidly catchy chorus, playful solos and just the right amount of slowed down palm muting. Even in such a short space of time (the average track length is about 2:30), Sundowners’ vocal harmonies have a way of burrowing deep into your subconscious and the choruses to tracks like ‘Dig Deeper’ and ‘Belly Up Buckle Down’ will reverberate around your melon for ages. It’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in the quick and steady rhythms, the pretty jangly guitar lines and slightly vintage and scratchy feel of the album, but throughout, you’re often jolted back to reality by straight-up punk aesthetics. ‘Hold On’ is arguably the ‘punkest’ track on the album, harking back to Eternal Cowboy era Against Me! in its melodies and lo-fi instrumentals, but it doesn’t overplay its hand. Final track ‘Revolving’ could have been something grandiose and over the top, judging from the opening it’s given in ‘Oh No’, but instead, it’s a fast and simple punk rock romper that’s danceable as all hell and breaks into a completely wicked gang chorus towards the end. That probably sums up the whole record. Dropping the pretention, and the legacy of Midwestern beard punk laid out before them, Sundowners instead create a record that’s lots of fun and fit to burst with pretty, tuneful riffs.
If you like philosophical, fast and tuneful pop laced punk with a sense of reckless abandon and soul, you could do a lot worse than get into Sundowners.
-Robyn(Two Beats Off)
Do you like Midwestern punk rock, but wish it was a little less predictable in its gruff and melody? If so, Sundowners just might be your new favorite band. On The Larger Half of Wisdom, they take a formula that’s tried and true and turn it ever-so-slightly on its head with quirky bass lines, gritty guitars and a sardonic lyrical disposition that should perk up the ears of fans worn out on melodic punk, but also keep those fans not yet worn out on it plenty interested.
-BFG Press and Media.
Honestly, this is one of the best releases in our particular little subgenre (whatever folks wanna call it) in a long time. I'm really proud to have been abe to work on both & I think people are gonna be floored. So fucking sincere and passionate and great. Can't wait to have my hands on physical copies.
-DAVE MONOMANIA (Crusades, Steve Adamyk Band, Sedatives,Rock Among Us Mastering)
Sundowners (not to be confused with Sundowner) is a DIY punk band from Minneapolis that's been around since 2006. They've released Gnome & Glacier LP and a S/T 7" on Dirt Cult Records in the past, so I've obviously been a fan forever, but this record still blew my expectations out of the water. Urgent and complicated melodic punk that will get stuck in your head for days. Seriously, I listened to this to about 4 weeks straight before I finally decided I should put on another record. FFO Frozen Teens, Future Virgins, Toys that Kill, etc.
"Dirt Cult, having previously released Sundowners debut LP Gnome & Glacier (the first LP the label ever took on actually) and the follow-up self-titled 7" have believed in Sundowners for a very long time. And its great to see that potential realized. Not that their previous releases have been anything short of great, but they certainly didn't prepare us for "The Larger Half of Wisdom." This is DIY basement punk at it's finest. Think Frozen Teens, but a little more "weird." Early Against Me! but a little less "folk." Frankly, I've been at a loss when trying to describe this band for years. Nothing I can say seems to do them justice. So I'll just way I am extremely excited for you to listen to this record."
------CHRIS MASON (Dirt Cult Records,Low Culture, Shang A Lang)
The album exhibits some of the band’s best work to date. This release sets a new benchmark for their songwriting and production quality. The band has been mercilessly road tested over the past 7 years – this may attribute to the band’s overall tightness, a quality that can clearly be heard in the band’s live shows and on the album as well. As with any band that is true to themselves, the Sundowners are a product of their environment – each member of the band hails from small towns in Northern Minnesota. You might think that would be an odd place to spawn a punk rock band and you’re probably right, but that’s something that sets this band apart from their big city punk rock brethren and adds to the band’s unique sound. The Sundowners are a breath of fresh air in an often smoggy and stale music industry.
, Maximum Ink, guitar.com)
This record managed to capture what (good)punk is to me. Its aggressive, melodic, and dynamic. The harmonies dont go unnoticed either. This album shows me that, not only have you grown into your sound, but have expounded on it beyond. I love its refined rawness. Everyone has progressed as songwriters, musicians, and as a band. Im not just blowing smoke. This is a really fucking good midwestern performance punk album... and YOU made it!!! Tracks 9-11 speak to me the most. They remind me of the bands that came through Minot/Williston that were my influences.You guys got a great sound for the recording that fits your style. People need to hear this album. There is a great mix on this album and has a little something for everyone. I'm a very, very proud forefather and I am so excited to see what comes next.
-Cassidy Roberts (The Embassy-Grand Rapids Scene)
It’s no big secret that some of the best punk and indie rock comes from Minnesota, heck it was practically born there with The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. The winters are long and cold, so there’s not a helluva lot to do except drink beer and hone your punk rock tunes down in the basement, and that’s exactly what The Larger Half of Wisdom, the new record from Sundowners sounds like. It’s melodic, it’s loud, it’s fast, it’s catchy and it’s a whole lot of fun!
The Larger Half of Wisdom gets better with every listen. Honestly, on my first listen, I felt like it was punk by numbers, but the more I listened, I realized that I was way off base. The record has more depth and dynamics than your standard run of the mill punk record, it sounds pretty polished on the surface, but when you really listen, you can hear some cool interplay amongst the guitars that gives it a raw sense of passion bubbling under the surface. I haven’t mentioned the harmonies yet, but they will hit all of the right pleasure buttons in your brain.
The record starts off like gangbusters, hit after punk rock hit, but really starts to hit its stride with “Bird World Country” a Minutemen like fist pumper, with a strong social message. “Cassidy’s Imagination” also features some chops that could have fit right in on Double Nickels on the Dime. That’s not to say these guys sound exactly like The Minutemen, because they don’t, it’s just that there are spots on the record that would make the ghost of D Boon smile. “Rooted Nowhere” is another highlight, featuring a another great guitar riff, and catchy as hell chorus.
This is a solid punk album, and the band often takes their songs in different directions than you think they are going to go, particularly on album closer “Revolving” where they break it down in a couple of interesting spots that you wouldn’t expect, yet always keep it moving along at breakneck speed. The Larger Half of Wisdom is a grower that has interesting layers. Once you give it a few listens and really examine it, you will find yourself thoroughly engrossed in it.
-Kevin Poindexter (The Fire Note Online Music Magazine)
Dirtcult records has become one of those labels that I implicitly trust with pop music. Sure, they put out a few things that lean more to the hardcore side of things that are not really my style; but when they've got a melodic punk band lined up, I'm on board just about every time. They've done it again with Sundowners.
Sundowners play a punked up indie rock that immediately makes me think of the band Sundials. Both have a singer with similar inflections, but Sundowners blow Sundials out of the water with hooks and energy. At times, Sundowners also remind me of the more off kilter moments of Statues. A little shake up in the rhythm, but also like Statues, just blast into ultra catchy choruses.
Even though this is the band's 2nd full length, they are still a newer band to me. The Larger Half Of Wisdom is the type of record that will absolutely make me keep tabs on Sundowners in the future, just waiting for more records.