The Upshot: Amiable vocals and the guiding hand of Ed Stasium make this worthy of a spin; best suited for a rainy afternoon or an uninterrupted drive on a back road. Below, listen to a key track.
BY BILL HOLMES
Self-labeled as altPOPcountryFolkROCK, lack of spaces and capital letters by design, one might expect that Sugar Ponies music is indescribable by any one term; a blend of spices generating a meal with a unique taste. I’d probably suggest delicateMELODICWordyYEARNING, but my Editor would fire me if I tried to suggest no spaces were needed. In fact, spaces between songs exist for a purpose; a palate cleanser to let you know things are about to change so you can shale your brain like an Etch-a-Sketch in anticipation. We can’t all be side two of #Abbey Road#, after all.
The imprimatur of Ed Stasium suggests power pop; his touch guided energetic records by The Ramones and The Smithereens among others. Here he exhibits restraint both as producer and percussionist, but given that the focus of the album is the playful voice of Suzanne Kramer, his framing allows her voice to flirt, dance or pine with ease and give the songs the personality they rely upon. Nothing here would qualify as a “hit” record, but if you do nothing else today, please listen to the cello-driven angst of “Give This Girl a Break”, a heartbreakingly naked confessional:
The danger of starting an album with a cover is the subconscious suggestion that there might be another on the way. Eight bars into “Around You” I would have bet the farm that I was about to hear an interpretation of Dido’s “Thank You” since the notes and tempo are a DNA match. And were it not for the instrumentation, I would have wondered how Julia Nunes slipped “Blueberries” past me without fanfare. But I like the song order, and with the exception of the silly “Hey Cowboy”, the songs themselves. The album is structured like a well thought out set which is only lacking the warm applause and (likely) witty stage banter.
DOWNLOAD: “Give This Girl a Break”, “Blueberries”, “You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)”