Cocteau Twins with a heavier shoegaze twist.
Mixing dreamy blissed-out vaseline smeared vocals with a classic shoegaze sound, Sugar For The Pill release their debut album “Wanderlust” with confidence and aplomb. It’s a collection of tracks that feel at home with 4AD’s 80s and 90s era. Fans of Cocteau Twins will be delighted but so will fans of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. There’s plenty of rock for everyone.
Sugar For The Pill hit a sweet spot with me because there is an ethereal element vocally but also a grungy anarchic element of the music too. Opener “Quicksand” has a reined-in wall of sound to the guitars that burst to life in the chorus but stay more delicate in the verses. This gives you an Elizabeth Fraser glide vocally that calms the storm. The immediate follow up “Drink Conium” gives you minor chords and shouty backing vocals that belong in a punk track. Add to this the fact both the guitars and vocals have a college-rock sass to them and things sound ethereal but feel visceral.
This juxtaposition follows through into other tracks too. The superb “Falling Back to You” focuses on more complex riffs and tighter guitars. The production switches allow the complexity to shine whereas other bands would probably drown it out in sound. It gives the listener a full 1993 vibe. “Soul Can Wait” is another banger where the guitar wails of the chorus and dramatic outro are shoegaze perfection. There’s that perfect twist of lemony dreaminess in the chaos. Elsewhere other 90’s bands like Belly get a nod with more Americana styled tracks like “More Than a Lover”. It’s the soundtrack to Buffy, just 20 years later.
For all my nods to the 80s and 90s, tracks like the anthemic “Diamonds” or the whimsical “I Wish I Was The Fire” benefit from 2022 recording tech. The rubbery bass is crystal clear. That rush of guitars hitting you doesn’t have the overpowering bleed pop. The quartet doesn’t choose the obvious route for riffs either. Chords and notes meandor and whilst there are a few four-chord runaways, they are filled out by that meandering so nothing sounds simple. It’s a clever way to keep the ear interested and volume plays a big part in the album too.
Sugar For The Pill could well be my favourite new shoegaze discovery of 2022. “Wanderlust” is a fantastic album that knows its identity and delivers well crafted and emotionally engaging songs from start to finish. The mid-tempo sadder tracks rival the headfirst bobsleigh of the anthems and there’s plenty of variety to boot. A genuinely superb album that reminds me of when I first discovered Curve in the 90s. It all just clicks effortlessly and you feel like you’ve known the music for years.
Recommended track: Falling Back To You
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.