Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Lisa Mychols, Sugar, 2018

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

Lisa Mychols's Sugar is the perfect pop album for the summer. It's fun, sunny, has a visit to an amusement park, romance, and some of the heartbreak that always seems to end the season.

Mychols's voice has echoes of girl groups and female singers from the 60s like Leslie Gore and Nancy Sinatra. She even looks a bit like Nancy on the album cover with its back-in-the-day fonts. Her singing, melodies, and arrangements have more recent influences including Kirsty MacColl's early singles ("They Don’t Know" and "There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis") as well as music from The Bangles and The Go-Go's. 

Known as the "Queen of Power Pop," Mychols has been around since the early 90s and has played with the legendary Wondermints on her Lost Winter's Dream album. Mychols was also a member of The Masticators with Steve Refling and Nushu with Hillary Burton. She's also released a number of solo albums; but, unfortunately, I didn't find out about her until her terrific cover of Matthew Sweet's "Looking At The Sun" was included on this year's Futureman Records' Altered Sweet tribute album. But I'm a fan now and the songs from Sugar have been lodged in my brain for the last few weeks.

Joining forces again with producer and multi-instrumentalist Refling on Sugar (he also produced her Sweet Sinsations album in 2004), Mychols has created a modern spin on the girl-group sound; and she has written a collection of tunes that could have been the work of Brill Building-era songwriters like Goffin and King. 

Mychols's singing is strong throughout the album and can be either love-struck or love-lorn. In addition, the musicians back her up with some great drumming, guitar playing (jangles and solos), and keyboard work. There's a lot of bouncy piano-as-rhythm instrument that the Beatles used on songs like "Penny Lane".  

There are a few songs on Sugar that recall girl group songs about young love: "Loving You Baby," "Don't Wanna Close My Eyes Again," and "Next To Impossible" all could have been hits in the early 60s.

The heartbreaking "My Friend And Me" borrows a organ lick from George Harrison's "I Me Mine." "He's Got Me Dreaming" is about attending a concert and being engulfed by what she's hearing. It begins with jangling guitars and a thumping drum right out of a Phil Spector production and builds to a wall-of-sound homage. The most modern-sounding song on Sugar is the beautiful "Messages to the Muse," an ode to the wonders of songwriting.

Sugar is out now on Strataplastic Records.

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