Spearheaded by singer/songwriter David Hamilton, the Cleveland, Ohio five-piece Uptight Sugar have been gigging in and around Cleveland for the past three years and have finally decided to lay down a few tracks for a proper EP. The result is the vibrant and eclectic Under Blue Light, a record that made me smile from the first run through for its striking sound quality (the multiple studios who recorded this record deserve some applause: Lava Room, Jim Stewart Recording, and even a few bandmates’ basements) but also its striking songwriting quality.
The first band that came to mind was Spoon, that like Uptight Sugar has with every record managed to take rock and pop into directions which no one else dared to take them and come back with brilliant results.
The band kicks off Under Blue Light with the pop-rock piano and guitar driven “Diggin’ Holes.” The tune hooks you from the very beginning with its punchy rock sounds and then once it has you takes you along into a sparkling miasma of rock that feels like falling down a glittering rabbit hole into a different world.
Next up we are taken further into sonic rock territory with the blues meets orchestral rock on the maddening beauty of “Broken Love” with its giant swells of ten-foot-tall waves of electric guitar, keyboards and even a harmonica that rocks harder than a lot of guitar rock. It’s an impressive composition and sounds really awesome with the volume cranked up.
Next the band drops it down quite a few notches for the short and spacey interlude “In a Hole,” a shimmery bit of synth-pop that gives Under Blue Light some nuance and texture and shows that these guys aren’t just slapping a bunch of songs together to make a record, as though it were a sandwich, but rather they are layering and creating a mood, and the record has that sense of good filmmaking. We are then treated to the clubbiest and most engrossing of tracks “At the End of the World” which is equal parts rock n’ roll and lighted dance floor antics.
With Under Blue Light, Uptight Sugar has a lot going for them. They understand that taking chances and knowing which chances to take has a great stake in where a band is able to go and to grow over time. Anyone can make a dance record, and anyone can make a rock record, and trying to do both without knowing the mechanics of all this usually ends up spitting out something that resembles neither and is just a splatter of what someone would like to think of as art. Uptight Sugar however have made something real with Under Blue Light and I hope they continue to make more of it.
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