2020 has been giving up some great indie releases so far, spanning the folky sounds of Anthony Quails to the subtle alternative rock of artists like Terrorists of Romance and Morgan Mallory, and if you’re a longtime fan of the underground, you’re likely already aware that one of the biggest names in the game right now – AV Super Sunshine – is back at it again this spring with the release of his single “Smile” in both standard rock and house remix forms (along with a captivating new music video). AV Super Sunshine doesn’t have a go-to genre that he experiments with when he’s in the studio; for this player, creativity doesn’t begin and end with scene politics, and in “Smile,” he makes it clear to his competitors that there isn’t an aesthetical barrier he won’t cross if it means making his music more tangible to the masses around him.

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Although “Smile (House Remix)” doesn’t necessarily tell us anything that we didn’t already know about AV, I don’t think it was designed with the ultimate purpose of showcasing some kind of new fold in his artistry. Rather than pushing that avant-garde envelope any further than he already has, AV Super Sunshine tends to his best attributes – a knack for stirring up powerful grooves on a dime, sewing together equally stunning verses and outfitting the harmonies between the two with synth rock-style swing – and delivers a sound in this version of the song that feels more like a signature than it does a stab at forced hybridity. This artist doesn’t have anything to prove to critics who know the underground well – as I see it, he’s got the credibility to do just about anything he wants at this point without worrying about how the press is going to react.

The music video for “Smile” is almost unintentionally jarring in a couple of spots, but I would say that it’s more stimulatingly surreal than it is existential by nature. The mannequins, which are the same props that were used in The Hills Have Eyes, add a bit of additional context to the narrative that AV is imparting to us from behind the microphone, and while some might see the arrangement of the shots as being a little jagged, I think this is actually a bit more streamlined than “Are You Happy?,” his last big video, was.

Authenticity is always a top priority for AV Super Sunshine when he gets into the studio to make some sweet new tunes, and on this front, he hasn’t changed at all in the last five years. “Smile” is a power ballad with an important message that people need to be soaking up amidst the grey skies created by the nightly news in the past few months, and while it’s a standard-raiser for both AV and the scene that gave his career its start in the first place, I doubt it’s representative of a creative peak for this eclectic rock mastermind. He’s got a lot left in the tank, and that’s pretty obvious when listening to his latest recordings.

Nicole Killian

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