Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Sugar Stems are back!
Only Come Out At Night is the full realization of everything that was promised on Can't Wait. It feels like such bad form to use the term "masterpiece" to describe an album that was just released 20 minutes ago. But, you know, it actually is a masterpiece! Not only has Betsy written the best songs of her life, but she's written so many of them that one might mistake this album for a greatest hits collection! And from a production standpoint, this is the best-sounding record I've heard in quite some time. While the band name still conjures thoughts of lighthearted cutesy fun, for the most part this is a far more serious and mature record than you're probably expecting. And I mean that in an entirely good way. This is an album that proves that power pop can "grow up" without losing the things that made it great in the first place. The hooks are bigger, the melodies are more beautiful, and just about every song ought to be a hit (seriously, why isn't "The One" all over the radio?!). Betsy sings about real life issues we can all relate to - her fears, her frustrations, her hopes and dreams. And her voice, while still sweet as punch, resonates with a confidence and power that could not have been foreseen a few years ago. And the band as a whole has never sounded better - propelled by Jon's dynamic drumming and strengthened by the addition of Andy Harris (ex Goodnight Loving) on keyboards.
Opening with the pretty, refined pop tracks "Baby Teeth" and "I Know Where I'm Going", Only Come Out At Night wastes little time in showcasing the maturity of Betsy's songcraft. But just when you think you've figured out exactly what kind of record this is going to be, it proceeds to surprise you with wonderful, unexpected turns. This album, it turns out, has a little bit of everything - from the '60s girl group splendor of "Some Might Say" to the rootsy rock n' roll of "Haunted" (featuring Drew on lead vocals) to the racing adrenaline of "Run Run Rabbit" to the crunching pop-rock of "Radio Heartthrob" to the lush acoustic radiance of "Million Miles". It's the kind of album that satisfies immediately - yet becomes even more enjoyable after repeated listens. And while it has the hooks and melodies to win over power pop diehards in a heartbeat, it's not strictly a genre record. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who loves melody or great music in general. The band has made a free stream of Only Come Out At Night available, and I think that's a brilliant idea. People are going to hear this album and want to own it - along with gift copies for various friends and family. I think I've got my album of the year front-runner!