Joshua Tree, California-based singer-songwriter Wildlife Freeway, aka Sunny A Atema, releases her debut album, Sunny, a collection of songs mirroring nature and existential themes such as love, loss, awakening, and curiosity.
Written, composed, and performed by Sunny A Atema, the album was produced by Alex Ebert, who accompanies her on the album.
Wildlife Freeway’s sound blends indie-folk constituents with savors of jazz into delicious experimental sonic concoctions. The soundscapes are austere but evocative and topped by Sunny’s jazz-laced vocals. The single, “Clouds,” from the album, has amassed more than 780,000 streams.
Encompassing 11-tracks, highlights on Sunny include “Forest,” which opens on ticking percussion, followed by Atema’s piano, topped by booming thumps. For some reason, the song conjures up suggestions of Randy Newman, probably because of the stripped-down melody and Atema’s unique inflection.
“Clouds” features old-fashioned piano tones, reminiscent of a barroom player piano – resonant and ringing. The start-stop melody provides the perfect matrix for Atema’s dreamy, pensive vocals. At once baroque and minimal, “Clouds” delivers visceral, organic flavors of jazz.
A personal favorite, “Shoelaces” carries listeners back to the ‘30s, rolling out twinkling washes of piano. Whereas the folk-flavored “Family” features an acoustic guitar and Atema’s melodic Janis Joplin-like voice merged with hints of Joan Baez.
“Fox,” a bluesy, jazz-spiked song, focuses attention on Atema’s drawling, edgy voice. Another outstanding track is “Always Arriving,” with its classical motion and folk aromas. Oozing strings inject the tune with nostalgia and melancholy.
The last track on the album, “Flea,” rides a potent, measured rhythm and a dark-colored piano. Low-slung yet powerfully undulating, there’s an addictive, seductive quality to the combination of pulsations and leitmotifs. “Flea” is, perhaps, the best track on the album.
Wildlife Freeway delivers atypical music and distinctive vocals. Yet there’s a hypnotic, haunting essence to her music and her inimitable voice. Sunny is excellent and innovative.