In the increasingly crowded global market of acousticsinger-songwriters, north-west Spain remains a relatively undiscoveredregion. Yuri Méndez Jr, otherwise known as Pajaro Sunrise, hails fromthe unlikely surroundings of Leon, the last major city on the famousCamino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and he’s been undertaking his ownpersonal journey over the past few years that has reached a mostagreeable new destination on Old Goodbyes.
Originally a duo, Pajaro Sunrise’s eponymous debut album wasrecorded and produced at home and gained them instant acclaim in theirnative country, culminating in them being voted one of the three bestdomestic bands at the Premios de la Noche awards. From the start,their style bore virtually no traces of their Iberian heritage,bringing to mind instead the mellow, dreamy sound popularised inrecent times by the likes of Jack Johnson and JoseGonzalez.
While 2009’s sophomore effort Done/Undone was a sprawlingcollection of 22 songs that was sometimes in need of a little qualitycontrol, Old Goodbyes restricts itself to a mere eight tracks and is allthe better for it. Although it’s still the same establishedingredients of guitar, gentle percussion and occasional strings andorgan, the quality of Méndez’s best songs is really allowed toshine.
The album opens strongly with the delightfully woozy title track, awistful reflection on a life moving on. Méndez’s easy, relaxed croonmay be a little bland for some, but it fits the mood here perfectly,backed by a slow, languorous organ and the soft, almost imperceptiblecooing of female backing vocals. Song For Evangeline is cut from asimilar cloth but even better; an effortlessly melodic slice oflilting, nostalgic bliss that may very well be the pinnacle of PājaroSunrise’s career to date, finishing with a serene, shimmering violinsolo which briefly makes everything right in the world.
Old Goodbyes’ purple patch continues with a stirring cover of thelargely unknown American folk musician Jackson C Frank‘s IDon’t Want To Love You No More. A soaring, string-soaked lament, thepresence of banjo and accordion gives the track a strong Celticflavour. An impressive first quartet of songs is completed by thelovely Look What We’ve Become, which stops just short of teeteringinto the twee zone often inhabited by the aforementioned Johnson.
If Méndez had kept up this standard throughout the entire record wecould possibly have had one of the albums of the year on our hands,but unfortunately the latter four tracks are disappointing compared towhat’s gone before. Love Like A Drummer sees a rare foray into themusical traditions of his homeland with its upbeat Spanish guitar, butcomes across as rather a forced departure from the relaxed groovePajaro Sunrise excel at. The Devendra Banhart-influenced Ribbonmeanders prettily for six minutes without going anywhere inparticular, while the instantly forgettable November is the weakestthing here by far and closing number (I Am Done) Making Fun Of Myselfis sweet but slight.
Despite its underwhelming second half, Old Goodbyes undoubtedly hasa lot going for it. At just 28 minutes long it certainly doesn’toutstay its welcome, and it’s not going to win any prizes for depth ororiginality, but those in search of a charming and chilled outsoundtrack to their summer could do a lot worse than buying this forthe first four songs alone.