Modern life is a patchwork quilt of screens. Technology is what sews us together and splits us apart. This is no secret. Checking our phones is often the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night – and, of course, as quarantine has made physical socialization increasingly dangerous, we have come to rely on these dark panes of glass to soothe our loneliness. Indie rock band Secret American explores this haunting phenomenon in their 2020 release “Shadows in the Sunshine” – a chill, driving track that urges us to unplug.
Shadows in the sunshine/Watchin leaves blow by
The song opens with the muted shouts of children, immediately grounding the piece in a sense of place and atmosphere. The sound of children is paired with relaxed, rising vocals. Then grooving guitar and a soulful, gently lapping rhythm. Together, this styling creates a visceral setting. To me, it feels very summery – like you’re sitting in the front lawn, in the hot dripping sun, and the world is blurry at the edges. It feels like longing for something you can’t quite place. Like sidewalk chalk and sour lemonade.
Drop me away from the phone calls and radio stations
Lyrically, “Shadows in the Sunshine” embodies the restless desire to disconnect – from the chaos of life, from technology, from the suffering that comes from a constant flood of information. There’s a suave ease to the track even as it criticizes the world we live in, and it’s easy going despite reflecting some deep-set anxieties. It’s not a song of desperation. It’s not hungry or screeching or aching like you might expect with its subject matter; rather, it’s self-contained, simple, and honest. This is not a song that attempts to prove itself to you. It simply is.
Time just goes like the breeze through your clothes
Read that line again. And again. And one more time for good measure. “Time just goes like the breeze through your clothes.” I mean, come on – that is some pristine writing. Secret American has never held back from embracing abstract topics, but what is particularly impressive in this instance is how gracefully the band weaves the abstract with the physical. “Shadows in the Sunshine” manages to construct a vivid sense of place while also dealing in lofty concepts like time (“Losin’ track of time”), money (“Money in your pocket isn’t worth a dime”), and technology (“Drop me away from the phone calls and radio stations”). It’s also worth noting that despite fretting over time lyrically, the song itself isn’t rushed – sonically, the song seems rather unbothered by the frenzy of time, which perhaps reflects the narrator’s desire to unplug and get away from the rush of modern living.
Shut up, get up, get out/Shut up, get up, get out
The final section of the song becomes a direct call to action. But let me tell you – this is the most gentle, chill call to action in history. The melody is sweet and mellow. The vocals overlap and find a bobbing repetition that cradles the listener in a sense of safety. This final section ties a bow on the song’s overall message: to look up from the screen and reconnect with what matters. It’s a softly swaying reminder to unplug – and to relax a little while you’re at it.