Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Cristobal and the Sea hit the mark more often than not on their breezy debut LP

"Sugar Now"

Release date: 02 October 2015
Cristobal sugar now
30 September 2015, 13:30 Written by Jon Putnam
“Sugar! Now! Sugar! Now!” Undoubtedly that frenzied titular mantra closing out escapist ode “Sunset Of Our Troubles” succinctly encapsulates Cristobal and the Sea’s knack for glazing their neuroses beneath the schmear of their sunny, bossa nova-inflected folk pop.

The band’s debut LP, Sugar Now is no real departure from their introductory Peach Bells EP from a year ago, which is perfectly fine provided they keep their sly, heady fruity drink vibes flowing over the long haul.

Well, they don’t entirely. Peach Bells exhibited some nimble diversity across its five tracks that now seem, in retrospect, a cherry-picked sampler of what all Cristobal and the Sea does well. Sugar Now by and large replicates this well over its first half, lead track “Counting Smiles” careening into an impressive crescendo of Balearic strumming, “Bear Paws” successfully aping Peach Bells closer “Zorro”s metronomic gazing, and “Legs Gone Feathers” projecting their breezy allure best of any track here.

From there, Cristobal nobly offer a change of pace with the lumbering, overlong “Out”, which carries its comparatively turgid pace over into its successor, “New Carlton House”, a static stretch from which Sugar Now never fully recovers. Funny enough, “Out” comes at a point where you might feel its gear switch is needed. Perhaps the execution is a bit lagging; perhaps Cristobal and the Sea are less dimensional than we thought.

I lean toward the former. Joao Seixas’ coolly unsettling lyrics offer a juxtaposition that lends the songs depth beyond their fluffy white cloud exteriors. They aren’t the clichéd “dark undertow” that metaphorically references politics and society or that hints at tragedies of the heart. They’re more ephemeral and grey than that – friends don’t know everything about each other, crushes’ intentions aren’t entirely clear – and lend the ambience more an enigmatic air than a sinister one.

On top of that, the mid-album duo of “Happy Living Things” and “Legs Gone Feathers” prominently feature flautist/vocalist Leila Seguin, which proves a boon to breaking up the male vocal monotony. Leaning more heavily on Seguin to provide a vocal counterpoint and highlighting her accenting instrumental role may offer a more successful stylistic shake up on future outings than turning toward lengthy mid-tempo balladry.

So, the fruity drink pipeline dries up a bit before the end, but Sugar Now remains overall a smart, summery fix and, given their coastal European lineage, Cristobal and the Sea offer a far more authentic injection of world music stimulus than the appropriation done by pale, private school types rooted on either side of the pond.

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