Four One Five Two

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Sundowner is basically Chris McCaughan and an acoustic guitar, so it's unsurprising that his debut as such, Four One Five Two, sounds almost like an acoustic Lawrence Arms album minus those other two guys. The introspection that's always marked McCaughan's songs for the Lawrence Arms arrives in spades here, but this, his spotlight showcase as a songwriter, is backed by stripped-down arrangements instead of rapid-fire punk rock. A few guests show up, most notably fellow Chicagoan Jenny Choi, who's previously worked with people like Mike Park; her sweet voice and mournful cello add a certain fullness to the proceedings (though a very subtle one at that), especially heard in songs like "This War Is Noise" and the Old Style-soaked, aching nostalgia of "Jackson Underground." Four One Five Two is an inherently likeable and unassuming album perfect for fans of McCaughan's main gig who want something mellower for early mornings or late nights alone. The emptiness of "Midsummer Classic" is akin to the sense of detachment felt at the recollection of a casual summer night unfolding in your memory, while the brisk strumming of the relatively aggressive "The Sea of Lights" gives sleepless nights of frustration a voice. McCaughan's rendition of "My Boatless Booze Cruise" is an album highlight, his version doing justice to the one originally written and sung by his bandmate Brendan Kelly. In the same vein, he also tackles his much-loved "One Hundred Resolutions," and it sounds equally compelling slowed down and revoked of all but its bare essentials. You could say that Sundowner is nothing that hasn't been heard before, and while that's true, that's not really the point. This is just McCaughan's way of sharing songs from a different angle with his fans, and any of them interested in the softer side of a rowdy punk should be more than satisfied with what he brings to the table.

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