Calhoun - Heavy Sugar [Album Review]
Taking a different route to a dreamy pop sound, Calhoun takes its Texas roots in an Americana scene and mixes in a light, catchy California sound that conjures up flickering images of washed out 8mm color film scenes of young lovers working out their fragile emotions.
Released as a physical compact disc last Tuesday, Heavy Sugar, the third album by the Texas-based band, finds the group perfecting their pop sound. After taking a year’s hiatus from extensive touring following their second album Falter Waver Cultivate, the band entered the studio in 2010 with producer Jim Barber (Hole, Ryan Adams) refreshed. Barber captured the band’s sound as they combined the moody wash of keyboards that dominated '80s college rock with strumming acoustic (or at least clean played electric) guitars with the occasional country type instrument of pedal steel or banjo.
In the spring of 2004, Calhoun formed in Fort Worth, TX initially as a friendly collective of musicians finding their outlet for three-minute pop records. Behind these catchy pop songs is lead singer/guitarist Tim Locke, a veteran of Fort Worth scene bands. Regarding Calhoun Locke says, "We're just a pop band." Then he laughingly concedes a nod to the root-rock and alt-country influences that others hear in the band's music. "Well, let's say we're just a pop band with a pedal steel thrown in occasionally."
Listeners will no doubt be drawn to the lyrics and Locke’s breathy vocals as they blend effortlessly with the strumming guitars into a lush musical soundscape. The production of the record safely resides in the mid-range spectrum and lacks a punchy bottom end from the rhythm section of Nolan Thies on bass guitar and Taylor Young (from The O's) on drums (now replaced by Josh Hoover due to a busy touring schedule for Young). Likely a conscious decision by the band and their producer, this leveling leaves the album a touch even sounding at times.
With that in mind, the picked guitar intros of “Knife Fight” and “Black Coffee & Cigarettes,” the sparse piano touches on “Horsefeathers,” and the banjo lines added to the strummed chords of “The Engineer” make these songs stand out as highlights of the record punching through the mix. [Listen to five of the album tracks below with a free download of "Lioness"]
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Released digitally on April 19, the press release boasted that the song "Knife Fight" would be featured during the young adult TV drama One Tree Hill ("Quiet Little Voices" Season 8, Ep. 18) on that same date. The music of Heavy Sugar seems to complement the small screen perfectly as young adults associate with the storylines given to their favorite flawless looking television characters as they fall in and out of love. Concurrently, these songs are strong candidates for a young adult mix tape given to a friend or lover faced with the heavy ebbs and flows of romantic emotions.
While Heavy Sugar may not have enough edge for an older, experienced audience, listeners, however, should not discount this fact alone and instead focus on the strong songwriting and well-arranged music contained herein as the beautiful album could become the soundtrack to one's summer of 2011 or subsequent summers to follow.
Tim Locke - Vocals, Guitars
Jordan Roberts - Guitars, Harmonium, Keys
Toby Pipes - Keyboards, Vocals
Nolan Thies - Bass
Josh Hoover - Drums
If you're in the mid-Texas area the band has a couple of upcoming tour dates left on their schedule, yet the band's My Space page mentions there will be Northeast and West Coast dates to follow in the summer.
June 3 - Fort Worth, TX - First Friday on The Green. Magnolia Green Park.
June 10 - Dallas, TX - Kessler Theater (w/ Menkena)
June 11 - Austin, TX - Ghost Room (w/ The Orbans)
June 26 - Fort Worth, TX - The Capitol Bar
Calhoun - Heavy Sugar track listing
1. Knife Fight
2. Thrown In The Universe
5. Heart of Junk
6. Don't Let Go
7. The Engineer
8. Indian Melody
10. Snow Day
11. Hey Mystery
12. Black Coffee & Cigarettes