Gospel Claws's second full-length sees the band on the cusp of breaking out in a big way.
Listening through Gospel Claws's sophomore effort, Put Your Sunshine Away brings a lot of influences to mind. One of the most prominent is the Walkmen, who are echoed in both instrumental palette and the close-to-strained vocal delivery. The two acts also share the same effortlessly naturalistic feel, but Gospel Claws differentiate themselves by cloaking their sound in '70s style sun-drenched reverb. The guitar tones throughout Put Your Sunshine Away have an undeniable warmth to them that help give a lot of the tracks on display even more vibrant life.
While Gospel Claws manage to stay away from the pensive side of things most of their forebearers seem to occupy, one of the most surprisingly effective traits of the band is their ability to seamlessly blend in a doo-wop influence. That influence is what elevates these songs from good to genuinely great while adding an impossible amount of commercial appeal. The balance between retro and modern is a delicate one and Gospel Claws have pinpointed the tightrope and are navigating it perfectly. The production plays up Put Your Sunshine Away's analog sound but the songs still come off as things that are inexplicably modern.
Of course, the engineering success would be rendered completely void if the songs weren't as spectacular as they are. Bringing to mind the Walkmen, Vampire Weekend, Cold War Kids, and the Beach Boys throughout the course of a single song may seem like an impossible task but Gospel Claws manage to do it on "I Can, I Will" and nearly every other track on Put Your Sunshine Away. Impressively, the lyrics from song-to-song never get overshadowed by the brilliant arrangements; both impress deeply. There's a varied sound that keeps things lively down the final stretch and lends the record even greater charm.
It doesn't seem to matter where you focus your attention on Put Your Sunshine Away, there's guaranteed reward. This holds true for both evaluating the record in its entirety or dissecting it on a song-by-song basis, stripping away the contextual experience. The sequencing is fantastic throughout, the songs present a unified whole and can act as stand-outs when isolated, and it's never anything less than gripping. Helping matters is the band's endless array of production tricks and ideas, from the haunted backing vocals of "Anything I Can Do" to the spritely handclaps and saxophone segment of "I Move Around". Everything connects in a fashion that suggests this band has experience well beyond their years.
Overall, that non-stop successful experimentation and variety may be Put Your Sunshine Away's strongest suit. The record's only downside is sometimes that it's simply too much. Gospel Claws are fully capable of writing great songs and incorporating fascinating experiments but it can occasionally seem like they've gone out of their way to incorporate something new when the song alone in a bare-bones presentation would've sufficed. But when the only complaint to be found within a record is that there's too much of something that's ostensibly a good thing, chances are it's a record more than worth a purchase.