Reviews Sugar Stems The Sweet Sounds of the Sugar Stems

Sugar Stems

The Sweet Sounds of the Sugar Stems

The Sugar Stems know what sound they’re after, and that’s pretty clear from their name alone. The Sweet Sounds of the Sugar Stems immediately hits on an upbeat and, ahem, sugary sound led by singer/guitarist Betsy Borst’s energetic vocals and Drew Frederichsen’s backing harmonies. The Sugar Stems take the familiar saccharine love song and speed it up, giving a bit of a garage rock feel. To top off it off, they add a touch of jaded cynicism to the lyrics, all while keeping them focused on the L-word. In many ways, it sounds like bubblegum rock played at a faster speed. As background music it’s peppy and fun, while a closer listen brings in more of the nuance that separates it from strict genre fare.

The highlights are “I Don’t Wanna Be Around You,” “I Gotta Know,” and “Little Girl,” and the song titles speak volumes concerning their content. Lyrically, there isn’t much beyond the surface, with “I Gotta Know” featuring lines like “You are the one who just keeps on bringing me down/ like a snowflake in the sun/ I just melt when you’re around.” The general contexts of their songs examine the give/take of relationships, spelled out pretty literally in “I Don’t Wanna Be Around You.” Borst lets her delivery slow up a tad on “Black and Blue, allowing Frederichsen’s harmonies to sink in, accompanied by country-influenced guitars, making it feel more emotional than the majority of the record, and “You’re So Fine” slows a clear rockabilly influence. Still, the majority of the songs sound very similar, with Borst’s vocals holding within the same octave. When alarm clock noises prelude “Wake Up,” the effects serve as a nice break from the monotony.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than the Sugar Stems and, ultimately, the record feels a bit samey and gimmicky by the end. It’s fun and the band has their tone mastered, but there isn’t much beyond the surface. Fans of female-led harmonies and the power pop genre will want to take note.

6.8 / 10Loren
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6.8 / 10

6.8 / 10

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