REVIEW: Jesse Malin’s “Sunset Kids” Stakes Its Claim


Sunset Kids, out now on Wicked Cool Records and produced by Lucinda Williams, finds Jesse Malin making claims on a piece of the Americana pie. Starting out fronting hardcore band Heart Attack at age 12, followed by years fronting NYC punk-glam stalwarts D Generation, a stint as Ryan Adams’ NYC wingman primarily due to Adams’ love of D Gen that resulted in Adams’ first production work and a stripped down rock record, plus a slew of solo albums, Malin is back with an Americana infused radio friendly down home collection of tunes that reach beyond his New York home. Williams’ presence is felt from the first notes of “Meet Me at the End of the World Again,” the album opener, as Malin croons sad scenarios over a barrelhouse piano groove grown deep in the mud. “I used to be somebody, man, I used to be someone, now I’m feeling like a bullet in the chamber of a gun … I feel I’m at the wrong end, man, of someone else’s joke,” Malin sings. To balance the morose, however, energy builds to a series of triumphant do-do-dos.

“Room 13,” the album’s single, give us a Malin searching for meaning and purpose in an otherwise mundane world and falling short, “well I spent some time in a hotel room, thinking about love, and I walked away like those others do, oh when it’s not enough.” “When You’re Young” ponders the carefree excitement of youth and its perennially impermanent nature: “when you’re young and you run and you’re burning like a star, and it’s fun and it’s done and it leaves you with a scar…it’s just another day you can throw away, gonna fade away, gonna fade away,” Malin sings.

“Chemical Heart” breaks down the song to its essential elements – acoustic guitar and tambourine – before building to a haughty jaunt accompanied by a carnival organ, “singing nah nah nah…you got a lot of nothing but it’s mine, mine, mine.” Intimate sincerity returns on “Promises” as Malin dissects good intentions and promises that fall by the wayside. “Stranger and Thieves,” an album highlight, busts out of its gate like a wild horse that was never meant to be corralled, while “Revelations” returns to sparse guitars, tambourine, and close harmonies. “Gray Skies Look so Blue” examines the dichotomy of the traveling life, the pull between home and the road, as Malin sings, “I’m packing my bags for the jet planes and the highways, sorry I just can’t stay, but I come back ‘cause gray skies look so blue when I’m far away”. “Friends from Florida” finds Malin’s soul stretched thin; he sings, “Somebody just put me up against the wall, a black beauty mixing love and blood and alcohol, with our winter eyes and our lonely lives, all my friends in Florida, with our sad goodbyes from another time, this is how it ends.”

Sunset Kids closes with “My Little Life” with Malin longing for something else, a different life, a chance to change. It’s a desire most all of us have felt at one time or another – the desire to fit-in, but scared to lose ourselves in the process. Malin digs deep into this balancing act, “my little life won’t go away easy, my little time is all that I got, I wake up each day and go through the motions, all that I want is something I’m not”. With Sunset Kids Jesse Malin stakes his Americana claim and pans for gold in the current of our times.

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