I’ve come to expect the unexpected from singer/songwriter Sonny Smith and his revolving cast of Sunsets over past few years. After impressing with their first two albums of guitar-tinged pop (2009’s “Tomorrow Is Alright” and 2011’s “Hit After Hit”), Sonny & The Sunsets took an abrupt left turn with 2012 masterpiece “Longtime Companion,” a country platter that chronicled the dissolution of Smith’s marriage. It remains my favorite album of his date.
Smith & The Sunsets shifted gears again with 2013’s so-so “Antenna to the Afterworld,” returning to their earlier retro sound — buoyed by the addition of some synthesizers. They continue in that vein on rock-solid fifth effort “Talent Night at the Ashram,” exploring lots of different sounds and musical styles over the course of 10 mostly excellent tunes.
Among the standout cuts here are “Cheap Extensions,” too-short gem “The Secluded Estate,” “Alice Leaves for the Mountains,” “Happy Carrot Health Food Store” and “Icelene’s Loss.” While I truly hope Smith decides to dabble in country music again at some point, “Talent Night at the Ashram” continues his string of compelling albums. Kudos. (Jeffrey Sisk)