Album: & I’m Fine Today
Label: Missing Piece Records
Release Date: 01/13/2017
2017 is a huge year for Charleston hometown heroes SUSTO, an alt-country band shepherded by Justin Osborne, formerly of Sequoyah Prep School. Expanding in atmospheric sonic texture and popularity, SUSTO has evolved from their title as the local Acid Boys to tourmates with the Lumineers. Sophomore album & I’m Fine Today arrives in full five-piece glory, experimenting with a more expansive sound and exploring Southern culture, religion and ideology in a refreshingly raw way.
Osborne’s lyrics dig down to the heart of it all via passionate and vivid storytelling. You can’t quite get some of the images he paints out of your head. “Then, in the pouring rain we found you a hospital bed, and when we picked you up and moved you, all the sheets were red,” he sings in second track, “Hard Drugs.” This evocative imagery is paired seamlessly with a full range of sonic landscapes, from easygoing acoustic guitar to a full-out orchestral masterpiece.
& I’m Fine Today begins with the latter, a symphonic soundscape with beautiful strings and powerful female background vocals. This track, “Far Out Feeling,” is reminiscent of atmospheric Pink Floyd, building into a true composition that is a far cry from SUSTO’s catchy country and guitar-driven first album.
Other than the sonic shift, there is also a more powerful and honest lyric message throughout each and every song. “Is there anybody in there, smoking weed with God?” kicks off album single “Waves,” a psychedelic rock piece with a beachy influence, beginning the trend of good times blended with cultural exploration and self-revelation.
“Gay in the South” stands out in particular as a struggle with deep-rooted Southern prejudice that still lingers throughout the Bible Belt. Osborne sings, “They promised us you were going straight to hell when you died. I know now hell is nothing but a head space.” “Diamond’s Icaro” then returns more to an original acoustic sound, with sweet guitar, soft harmonies, and a nostalgic feeling.
“Mystery Man” arrives with reverb heavy steel guitar and sweet sentiments, while “Cosmic Cowboy” delves deep into the meaning of life and Osborne’s place in the South. This is all juxtaposed with feel-good rebellion instrumentals highlighted by gritty vocals. “I’m a Southern man but I’m an atheist, a puddin’ swamp kid with tattooed fists.” Harmonica and trumpet are just a few surprises in this anthem.
The album ends with “Ja Werx,” an undeniably catchy, rhythm-driven track featuring a spacey overlay and bright electronic details. This also happens to be the song that inspired the psychedelic album cover and gave the disc its title. SUSTO leaves you off feeling fine today, which is the way they want you to see things at the end of the day. Through the mess– processing cultural identity, battling societal injustices, struggling with substance abuse and searching for yourself somewhere in the mix– it will all be fine in the end.