Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sugar Glyder: Soaring Beyond the Limits

Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, indie rock quartet Sugar Glyder is just bubbling beneath the surface of the independent music scene, possessing all the makings of a band primed to break through. In order to fully appreciate what the men (Daniel Howie, Chris Rigo, and Bobby Matthews) and woman (Emily Aoyagi) of Sugar Glyder do, one must examine their output from the beginning, for their style and mastery of their craft clearly evolves from release to release.

After two demo releases in 2003 and 2004, Sugar Glyder came out with their first proper EP, The Unsaid and the Obvious, which featured a rawer punk style driven by Howie's powerful vocals. As Unsaid gave way to their second proper release, an LP entitled We Cracked the Sky, a distinctive style was beginning to emerge as the instrumentation featured on the album expanded and a departure from the pop punk leanings yielded a more experimental inclination. Moreover, a certain ethereal quality could be heard with songs like "Flowers" and "Grace the Fulcrum" containing fuzzier guitars and sweeping vocals that fashioned a sort of soundscape in which the listener could get lost. Then came Sugar Glyder's most recent record, 2009's Poor Baby Zebra, when the nascent elements of what would become the band's characteristic sound became more developed and defined.

In experiencing Zebra, I can't help but think of this as the equivalent of The Bends-era Radiohead where the band has moved from a solid but altogether atypical and embryonic Pablo Honey-type release to one that is not only far superior musically, but also hints that there is something masterful on the horizon. Howie's vocals are impressively versatile, strong and dominating when necessary on energetic numbers like "Blackbeard Has Feelings Too," yet gentle and subdued on "In the Rising Light." They have a timbre similar to Matt Bellamy of Muse and a range similar to Gareth Jones of People in Planes, but to emphasize these comparisons too heavily would be to unfairly imply that Daniel Howie's talents are commonplace. In addition, there are tracks like "BCDE," a brief ambient interlude akin to The American Dollar or "Treefingers" and complete with "Fitter, Happier"-esque digitized text-to-speech, which offers teasers of what genre exploration may lie ahead in future work. Then you get a track like "Everyday Above Ground" that incorporates a Weaver at the Loom-like keyboard-driven melody and provides welcome contrast to upbeat songs like the title track. In all, what you get with Poor Baby Zebra is a meticulously constructed album so cohesive and aurally appealing that there's simply not one song where you're inclined to even consider pressing the skip button.

However, in order to fully appreciate what Sugar Glyder can do, one must see the band perform live in all their glory as I had the privilege of doing when they opened for Silversun Pickups at the Fillmore Charlotte on October 10. Touting more gear than fellow opening act An Horse and main act Silversun Pickups combined, the stage was filled with all kinds instruments, including a bass drum with their logo on it and another drum sprinkled with blue glitter that was played by Rigo. With the glitter on the drum splashing up and dancing about throughout the show as the sound waves egged it along, a spunky Aoyagi rocked the bass while playing the tambourine with a bare left foot, a wonderfully bearded (second only to Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and Rain Machine) Rigo banged out the melodic guitar licks, a proficient Matthews thumped the percussion along, and a dynamic Howie flawlessly recreated his studio vocal performances, complete with the high-pitched cry that rounds out "Blackbeard." In my opinion, Howie and the gang stole the show that night—I went in for Grammy-nominated Silversun Pickups, but I'll be coming back for Sugar Glyder.

So, what are you waiting for? Go pick up Sugar Glyder's discography from Manifest, order it online from their MySpace page, or grab it off of iTunes. Also, make an effort to go see the band perform live; perhaps even consider sharing your New Year's celebration with them at the Double Door Inn this December 31. Whatever you have to do, find a way to hear Sugar Glyder because the sky is truly the limit for this group of gifted musicians.


And just because it brought me so much happiness, please do me the favor of skipping to around 1:30 in the video below where you see Sugar Glyder stuck in traffic during a thunderstorm listening to "Optimistic"...


Anonymous said...

very well said truth

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