Ibiza may be best known for nightlife, but away from the endless raves and debaucherous parties, the island’s natural beauty can be something to get lost in. In October 2021, Los Angeles musicians Eddie Chacon and John Carroll Kirby escaped to the Mediterranean oasis and found themselves doing exactly that—soaking up the ample sun and lush greenery while recording Sundown, a collection of laid-back grooves and sultry meditations on love, loss, and the human experience.
Chacon has had decades of practice settling into this rarified zone. After an adolescent stint in a mid-’70s garage band with Faith No More founder Mike Bordin and future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, he made a name for himself singing breezy, radio-friendly music as one half of soul-pop duo Charles & Eddie in the early ’90s. At their peak, they found global chart success with the irresistible “Would I Lie To You?,” from their 1992 debut, Duophonic. But 1995’s follow-up Chocolate Milk flopped and the two called it quits. In 2001, not long after they’d begun entertaining the idea of making music together again, Charles Pettigrew passed away. Chacon changed career paths, becoming a creative director and fashion photographer.
Fast forward to the late 2010s, when a mutual friend introduced Chacon to John Carroll Kirby, a seasoned producer and pianist who’s worked with Solange, Frank Ocean, Steve Lacy, and Harry Styles. Together, they collaborated on Chacon’s 2020 solo comeback, Pleasure, Joy and Happiness, a series of foggy, low-key reflections that Chacon cut through in his barely-there falsetto. His newest album, Sundown, serves as an extension of those meditations on romantic woes and regrets as Chacon and Kirby’s camaraderie matures into an effortless partnership.
A throughline of Chacon’s solo music, built on the foundation of soul legends like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, has been his minimal lyrics. For the most part, he’ll stick to one or two core refrains, repeating them until they slowly take the shape of mantras. From accepting the fleeting nature of life on the bouncing synth-funk cut “Comes and Goes” to subtly grappling with his mental state on the shimmering “Same Old Song,” he renders the lessons he’s learned throughout his 59 years short and sweet. The repetition of lyrics on “Far Away” (“What went wrong?”) and “Step by Step” (“Listen to your heart and know/Every day a stepping stone”) exemplifies his less-is-more approach, an ethos of simplicity that shows the influence of spiritual greats like Pharoah Sanders and Laraaji.
The labyrinthine music often fills the gaps between words. Spearheaded by Kirby’s sleek production and woozy fingerwork on the Fender Rhodes, the smooth, soulful instrumentation comes to life with bird-like flutes, samba-infused bongo rhythms, and communal handclaps. The music video for the title track gives a behind-the-scenes look at the utopian recording process at Los Angeles’ 64 Sound Studios, with Chacon, Kirby, and a slew of players, eyes closed, bobbing their heads in unison.
In the impressionistic outlier “Haunted Memories,” Chacon confronts the nature of his difficult mind as his slightly off-key vocals and Kirby’s oscillating keys add a sense of unease. Sequenced back-to-back with “Same Old Song,” this darker stretch mirrors the uncharacteristic anguish he detailed on 2020’s “My Mind Is Out of Its Mind.” With a forlorn but sensual feel, his troubles were easier to digest back then; here, his introspection seems unresolved in a way that’s more visceral. As “Haunted Memories” progresses, his voice trails off like he’s losing himself deeper in thought, while the ticking drumbeat and shaky, fluttering flute seem to engage in a conversation of their own.
It’s not all heavy, though. In the funky “Holy Hell,” Chacon considers whether the glass is half-empty or half-full: “We can keep on shining,” he sings in a confident rasp, “But we can’t stop the hands of time.” Album closer “The Morning Sun” sends things off in high spirits: Blissful saxophones and synth bass emit an air that’s joyous and carefree alongside Chacon’s shaky vibrato, describing summer breezes and gentle rain. Moments like these encapsulate the spontaneous, paradisiacal feel of the album’s early days in Ibiza: a place where Chacon could reflect on love, loss, and the weight of the world without ever losing his groove.
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