The Upshot: New Zealander sings with a brutal honesty and rancor; think of an angrier, less word-playing Courtney Barnett or a cabaret-in-hell version of Sandra Bell.
BY JENNIFER KELLY
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s voice is broken in the most beautiful way, the cracks and growls and wobbles like the spider lines in glass just before it shatters. She works these songs like a cat scratching up the glass towards freedom, not so much singing them as fervently trying to escape their bounds. The songs themselves are modestly couched in late night piano, heat-thundery bass and quietly emphatic drums, yet the flare of hurt and longing transcends their structures. There is almost too much poured into these musical vessels. They brim, they slop over, they run down in desolate eddies.
Chadwick, a native New Zealander currently operating out of Melbourne, started in strident punk-grungy Batrider. Now on her fourth solo full-length, she sings with a brutal honesty and rancor; think of an angrier, less word-playing Courtney Barnett or a cabaret-in-hell version of Sandra Bell. Her shadowy, crevice-y voice recalls Broken English-era Marianne Faithfull, while her emotional pyrotechnics evoke certain Jeff Buckley tunes. Yet there’s a survivor’s triumph in her compositions, a keening, syllable-stretching, show-stopping muscularity in the way she turns a chorus up to eleven, especially in the title track, which’ll give you the shivers. Or in heart-breaking “Bauble on a Chain,” when Chadwick observes wistfully, “I thought you were deeper than that/I thought your troubles had sharpened your compassion.” Faithless lovers and casual music listeners may indeed prefer a bauble on a chain to songs this lacerating, but if you’re willing to go deep, Sugar Still Melts in the Rain is so real.
DOWNLOAD: “Sugar Still Melts in the Rain,” “Bauble on a Chain.”