There are some artists that stick to what they know and can always make it great, and then there are artists that change their style album after album. The latter is definitely the case of singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson. If you’ve follow him since his early work, he’s mostly known for doing country records, but he always gives a different turn to each project, particularly in his 2016 album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, where you had a good mix of country, soul, funk & rock, and while I admit his 2 albums were decent, ASGtE had got me on the Sturgill Simpson train.
Now following that record, we’ve heard quite a bit about his new album, Sound & Fury. It also garnered some attention as the album is accompanied by its own anime film directed by Jumpei Mizusaki of the studio Kamikaze Douga (responsible for the opening sequences of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Batman Ninja and Pop Team Epic). It is very much a visual album as the movie itself has no dialogue, and it’s been a while since a project like this happened, with the last big example I can think of being Daft Punk’s Interstella 5555, the companion piece to their acclaimed and best album, Discovery.
Now the album and the movie share the dystopian apocalyptic theme with the world in a state of desolation and despair. The intro, “Ronin,” and the starting song “Remember to Breathe” catch that in spades with the lyrics.
I go out late at night just to see what I can find
Stayin’ in the shadows where the light don’t ever shine
Having one-way conversations with the darkness in my mind
He does all the talking ’cause I’m the quiet kind
So peel it off, pull ’em down
Let me see it, turn around
Just lay back and let it happen
And remember to breathe
As I said earlier, this is another left-field turn for Simpson as his sound varies with some heavy futuristic production and some splashes of psychedelic rock along with some outlaw country in there…. very futuristic outlaw country. The lead single “Sing Along” continues with that high-energy style, and Sturgill’s vocals are very appealing as he ‘sings along’. Things do slow down on “Make Art Not Friends” with an excellent instrumental riff before he goes on, and this is him at his most melancholic and dour. I genuinely felt a sense of grimness, especially during the section the film used it in.
Looking out the window at a world on fire
It’s plain to see the end is near
Seen all the sights
Tired of the lights
So you can let me off right here
This town’s getting crowded
Truth’s been shrouded
I think it’s time to change up the sound
Yeah, the wheels keep turning
The flames gettin’ higher
Another cycle goes around
We get back to rocking sounds with “Best Clockmaker of Mars,” and this track delivers some excellent guitar riffs and drum work. Plus……
Wanna grow old in the mountain view
Wanna make babies ’til you say you’re through
Warm, bare, and naked when you pull me through
Turn off the TV, there ain’t nothin’ new
Yeah, I’m just pointing out those were the lyrics the Netflix translator couldn’t make out in the movie. Didn’t Sturgill, or at least the record company, give whoever translated it some help? But to wrap things up, I enjoyed this album from beginning to end; there were no songs that I hated here, and to add another compliment, “Fastest Horse in Town” is an epic way to end the album as a whole. I admire what Simpson had done with this album with the different sounds brought in on each song, and like most artists, he isn’t going to be boxed down to what was on his previous albums. Simpson has made another album that took some risks, and it all paid off excellently. It is a definite entry of my top albums of 2019.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy it. Sound and Fury will leave you full of fury in this awesome sound.
Sound and Fury is on Elektra Records and is available on CD, vinyl, digital download and on streaming services. The companion piece movie by the same name is exclusively on Netflix.