Charleston-based indie rockers SUSTO made their musical debut three years ago with their self-titled effort, an 11-track album with heavy Americana tendencies. This time around, the quintet fronted by Justin Osborne turns up the heat, pulling from all kinds of Southern sounds. The result is & I’m Fine Today, a cohesive collection of songs ranging from the subdued to the edgier, more complex compositions. There are three clear qualities of the full-length which make it worth a listen: well-layered instrumentation, a varied vocal approach, and powerful lyrical themes.
This well-layered instrumentation takes on several different forms, whether that’s in the soaring orchestral feel of the album opener “Far Out Feeling,” the driving yet spacey groove of the lead single “Waves,” or the folk-rock vamp that can be found on “Mountain Top.” Even on some of the record’s more Americana tunes, there seems to be a lot more going on, from the lingering groove of “Diamond’s Icaro” and the lasting horn ensemble in “Cosmic Cowboy” to the brief rocking end to “Wasted Mind.”
& I’m Fine Today’s varied vocal approach also manifests itself in several ways, including the fitting gang vocals on “Waves” and the emphatic yells throughout “Mountain Top,” but the most notable of approaches comes with the lush vocal harmonies present on songs like the opener and “Gay in the South.”
“Gay in the South” isn’t just great for its vocal harmonies though. Here, Osborne airs his frustration with how his Southern society treats the underprivileged, allowing for the term “gay” to assume two different meanings in this context – both a literal and a figurative one. Even the lead single touches on everyday struggles, but with a greater, more positive underlying message – “just write it out; the sun comes up and sun goes down, and that’s what it’s all about.” This is a recurring theme which sums up the record quite well. Its bright closer, “Jah Werx,” reiterates this perfectly, stressing that “it’s all good, [because] Jah works.”
& I’m Fine Today is book-ended by two killer tracks and features other highlights as well, thanks to the quality and complexity of many of the album’s compositions. As if that’s not enough, the lyrical content explored on SUSTO’s latest is profound at times and uplifting at others, making for a fantastic effort overall. Even if there are two or three songs which don’t boast the same level of staying power as the rest of the record, the sophomore full-length from this Charleston collective is well worth the listen. Both folks partial to the softer Americana feel and those who prefer the edgier indie rock sound will enjoy it, as & I’m Fine Today is a nice blend of the two.