Young Gun Silver Fox are the captains of AM Waves, setting sail towards an isle where melodies soak the shoreline and grooves sway like palm trees. Their route traces a natural progression fromWest End Coast, an album that cast Andy Platts (Young Gun) and Shawn Lee (Silver Fox) as musical virtuosos of SoCal-infused pop. AM Waves does more than duplicate the perfection of West End Coast. It improves it.
Recorded at The Shop in London and Roffey Hall in the English countryside, AM Waves burnishes the blend between the duo’s modern aesthetic and their sumptuously crafted homage to ’70s-styled pop, rock, and soul. “This music hits a certain spot for me personally that nothing else quite does,” says Shawn, who produced the album amidst his projects for Saint Etienne, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, and several other acts. “It’s real high-caliber music. It’s easy and breezy to listen to but it’s really hard to make. Every aspect is A game.”
The A game behind AM Waves fuels 43 minutes of Young Gun Silver Fox in peak form. “AM Waves is much more instinctive,” says Andy, whose penchant for writing irresistible hooks and melodies also shapes his role as lead singer and lyricist/composer for the band Mamas Gun. “It’s more vivid. You can see the clarity to the colors of AM Waves whereas West End Coast is slightly more impressionist, as it were.”
Originally issued as a single in September 2017, “Midnight in Richmond” is the anchor of AM Waves. “I hit one chord, which I’d never played before, and the song sort of wrote itself,” notes Shawn. “It was intuitive. In many ways, the primary function of what I’m doing is trying to find that chord that opens a door and takes you someplace else. Those chords have magic.” Andy embellishes the song’s appeal by nimbly juxtaposing wistful emotions with a sun-kissed melody, his voice evoking richly drawn memories. The qualities that make “Midnight in Richmond” an instant classic abound throughout the album.
“Lenny” and “Take It or Leave It” spotlight Andy’s versatility as a songwriter. The former was inspired by a dream he had where Lenny Kravitz owned a bar. “It was surreal,” he says. “He was polishing the glasses and just serving me hit after hit.” Like swimming through moonshine, Andy languorously savors every syllable in the song. “Take It or Leave It” is pure pop bliss. “That was one of those songs that fell out in half an hour,” he says. “I had everything and it was done.” Shawn adds, “It’s such a perfect song in itself. When I listen to it, it’s like you’ve created a record that already existed.”
Young Gun Silver Fox introduce a five-piece horn section on “Underdog” that literally trumpets the song’s protagonist. Shawn affectionately dubbed them the “Seaweed Horns” in honor of the Seawind Horns, an LA-based unit that recorded with powerhouses like Michael Jackson,Rufus & Chaka Khan,and Earth, Wind & Fire during the late-’70s. Andy explains, “The horns grab another hue of the west coast sound, which is the starting point, but it’s also maybe the point where we’re injecting a little bit more of ourselves and some outside colors into the familiar west coast palette.”
A bounty of treasures course through AM Waves’ ebb and flow. “Mojo Rising,” which the duo penned with Rob Johnson, is a veritable retreat to paradise. “Sky-bound, heaven sent / Way above the clouds watching shootingstars descend,” Andy sings, mirroring the music’s celestial undertones. Sensuality contours the notes on “Just a Man,” a song that basks in the allure of a woman who leaves “footprints on the water” while “Love Guarantee” is festooned with the Seaweed Horns. “I wanted to bring more of that R&B slickness into the mix,” Shawn notes about the latter track. “We hadn’t done a tune with that sort of groove.” Similar to his work on “Underdog,” Nichol Thomson’s intricate horn arrangement on “LoveGuarantee”exemplifies another distinction between AM Waves and its predecessor.
“Caroline” occupies a special place on AM Waves, beyond spawning the album title. It tells the story of Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station that broadcast from an offshore vessel during the ’60s and ’70s. “They played the music that kids wanted to hear, whether it was the old stuff or cutting edge stuff,” says Andy. “‘Caroline’ is about Radio Caroline’s eventual capture.” Complementing Andy Platts’ deft wordplay, which draws parallels between radio airwaves and the station’s literal home on the ocean, Shawn Lee layers nearly a dozen different parts on “Caroline,” showcasing the vastness of his musicality. “I loved that track as soon as I heard it,” Andy continues. “It’s a beautiful fusion of me and Shawn.”
The Seaweed Horns joinYoung Gun Silver Foxas they detour to the dance floor on “Kingston Boogie.” Shawn explains the track’s genesis, “I was thinking, what have we not done yet We definitely should get an AOR disco thing happening. I quite like disco. The beat is so metronomic that it allows you to be really sophisticated on top. ‘Kingston Boogie’ just laid itself out. I call it ‘midnight disco.'” With a nod to “Lenny,” Andy Platts sets “Kingston Boogie” back at Lenny’s Bar, this time revealing a detail or two about its mysterious proprietor as he pours sweet wine and moonshine.
In a sense, AM Waves ends with the beginning. Even before there was Young Gun Silver Fox, there was “Lolita,” the first song Andy Platts and Shawn Lee wrote together and a crowd-pleasing staple of the duo’s live sets. The tale of a femme fatale who harbors a secret was recorded for West End Coast but instead furnished the B-side to “Long Way Back” as well as a bonus track on the North American edition of the album. Despite the song’s checkered trajectory, its infectious chorus sparked the brighter, more buoyant orientation of AM Waves.
Like the moon pulling the tide, Young Gun Silver Fox are a magnet for good songs. “We’re both so obsessed and constantly interested in music-making,” says Andy. “We’re both thinking about it all the time. When you know you have an accomplice with you that’s the same as you, it’s very liberating. Suddenly, worlds of color start to appear.” Indeed, AM Waves is elemental in its power to induce pleasure. Dive right in.