Fans of catchy, nuanced local indie-pop got quite a jolt of bad news last year when Fort Worth's Calhoun announced their impending breakup, or at least a long hiatus, complete with a "farewell show" and everything. But the disappointment was tempered only a few months later with the news that frontman Tim Locke and guitarist Jordan Roberts, the two remaining original members, were heading to the studio with producer Jim Barber (Ryan Adams, Courtney Love) to work on a follow-up to 2008's gorgeous Falter.Waver.Cultivate.
As ambitious as that album was, Heavy Sugar is no less expansive an effort. Guitars are de-emphasized in favor of banjos and synthesizers, which somehow sound perfectly natural together on tracks like the galloping "Ryders," odd as that may sound on paper. But as layered and intricate as the music is, it's less grandiose than the last effort, frequently sounding more like a gentle whisper than a bombastic shout. A perfect example is "Horsefeathers," a mid-tempo jaunt with a pretty acoustic guitar pattern and quiet ambient background synth noise. As the record title would suggest, sweetness is a recurring lyrical theme throughout, with references to honey and sugar. Yet as pretty as the music may be, the band—now also featuring Little Black Dress' Toby Pipes and Nolan Thies and The O's' Taylor Young—manages to avoid turning Locke's lovesick tunes into a saccharine, syrupy, sticky mess.
If Heavy Sugar really is Calhoun's farewell, it's a great way to go out.
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