At first, the beat in Mychael Gabriel’s “Sunday Afternoon” is frustratingly tense, slowly unfurling before us along a soft psychedelic hook and Gabriel’s voice in an uncompromisingly hot harmony. Without notice, it will shift, tossing us into a smooth rhythm that could take the wind out of novice jam fans if they’re not careful with the volume knob. Inarguably as much a mood-setter as any of the engaging lyrics here are, understated grooves are a key element in the cocktail of musicality that is “Sunday Afternoon,” and along with their melodic counterparts, they make this song a must-listen this February.
The interplay between the bass and the guitar in both acts of this single reflects the tense atmosphere of both the beats and the words marvelously. There’s a lot to be said about the tonality that they lend to the harmony overall, but were it not bound together by the lush vocal provided by Gabriel, I’m not convinced it would be quite as effective as it is here. He’s particularly adept at pulling together eclectic components in a song, and in this performance, I think he puts himself in the top tier of his scene (in this regard, at least).
As far as the production quality is concerned, I think “Sunday Afternoon” is a near-perfect middle ground between polish pop prowess and raw, unabashedly dreamy psychedelia. There’s some of The Weeknd’s sound buried deep within the aesthetics of this artist, and even though it isn’t dominant in the construction of the hook in this single, I think that neo-soul and the conceptualism of psychedelic pop ala players like Donovan played a role in the development of Gabriel’s sound. He’s got a lot in common with the classic alternative model but seemingly goes out of his way in this track to establish himself as a modern, provocative indie artist.
These verses have an undeniably cerebral feel, and the emotion behind the narrative they form is authentic. I don’t think you have to read too much into the words to understand what Gabriel is trying to impart to his listeners here, but if we were to break down any potential enigmas in these lyrics, there would be no shortage of possible interpretations. It’s not easy to make a song that could appeal to fans through its cosmetics as much as it does the actual story it’s telling, but in “Sunday Afternoon,” Gabriel makes it look all too simple.
If this is just a preview of what’s still to come from Mychael Gabriel as he brings his music into the next decade, I think his continued rise through the ranks should be expected by both audiences and critics alike. He’s given us plenty of evidence to believe in his brand here and were any critics not completely convinced of his integrity before this release, I think they’re going to feel quite differently after giving “Sunday Afternoon” a spin. I like where this artist is headed, and I seriously doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.