I will try to approach the next eleven months with an open mind, but my favorite album of 2019 might have been released just eighteen days into the year. Singer-songwriter Steve Gunn’s The Unseen In Between is an incredible record that I can’t stop listening to.
I had been waiting for this album from Steve Gunn. Not because of anything on the record itself. I am thrilled that he is finally receiving long-overdue recognition.
When a magazine of the ilk of Rolling Stone publishes an article proclaiming an artist to be “rock’s best-kept secret,” it is a huge boost for an indie musician. He also received a write-up in the New York Times that detailed his relationship with Japanese musician Sachiko Kanenobu.
This upper-level press is a strong indication that the Lansdowne, PA native is in the next step of his career. A tier that two other Philadelphia musicians have risen to over the last decade.
A former member of Kurt Vile’s band, Gunn has been cutting records for a long time. He just has not experienced the popularity bump that Vile and colleague Adam Granduciel (The War on Drugs) garnered over the last few years. If his status as an unknown needs any clarification, Gunn even played the Best Kept Secret Festival in the Netherlands in 2015.
Review: Steve Gunn’s New Record
Previously, Gunn’s ability to create music to bliss out to was prominent on 2014’s Way Out Weather. The title track of that album has an incredible solo that could go on forever. That same skill is on display in consecutive tracks on The Unseen In Between.
Midway through the record, Gunn begins the song “New Familiar” with a serene guitar intro that eventually ascends into a tasteful and potentially endless jam. Gunn follows that with “Lightening Field,” another song that features a jaw-dropping extended bit.
Both songs are examples of Gunn at his best. He doesn’t shred an anthemic guitar like Granduciel. He paints. It isn’t easy to thread eleven minutes of guitar wizardry together, but when you can do it as well as Gunn it becomes a highlight of the album.
The remainder of The Unseen In Between is also vintage Steve Gunn. One notable song on the record is “Vagabound.” The relatively pop-minded tune channels the open spaces and captivating chords that showcase standout aspects of his musicianship.
Even though the freeing nature of Gunn’s lengthier tunes are my favorite aspects of his work, contemplative songs like “Luciano” and “Chance” allow me to pause and marvel at his ability to paint with words too. It is a different style than Vile’s wry observations, but it is as stunning as his both of his fellow indie contemporaries.
His artistry may have been nearly as long, but it is satisfying to see Steve Gunn is receiving attention like his Philly colleagues.
Steve Gunn is playing Steve is playing a winter and spring tour in support of The Unseen In Between that swings by Philadelphia’s Union Transfer on Saturday, February 2. Meg Baird and Marry Lattimore will open for him at the Spring Garden venue.