So I think this is my first album of the year (not that ‘albums of the year’ mean anything around here). But Sons & Daughters‘ new record, This Gift, really resonates with me – and did so right out of the box. I’ve liked this band right from when I first heard them (I forget how it was that I came across them) and have enjoyed their EP Love The Cup and first full-length, The Repulsion Box, since they’ve been out (2004 and 2005, respectively).
Formed by members of Arab Strap, these four have been described as a “co-ed quartet.” Comprised of two women and two men, they play a hard-driving kind of garage rock with oddball folk, country and 60s girl-group influences – operating somewhere at the nexus of the B52’s, early Supremes (okay, only a little bit), The Go-Go’s and Nick Cave.
I had previously fallen in love with the feisty Scottish country-punk of their earlier offerings, such as ‘Dance me in’ from Repulsion Box. The principle then seemed to be to play a very dancefloor-oriented flavour of indie rock (although PopMatters takes issue with classifying Sons & Daughters as ‘indie’ and they have a bit of a point). The ‘top notes’ of the earlier material were characterized by shared vocals between Adele Bethel (lead singer) and Scott Paterson (guitars, vocals), and a sometimes folky/country-inflected instrumentation and a ‘circle song’ feeling on several numbers (though maybe that was simply because a lot of the material was so two-chord simple as to induce a toe-trapping trance…).
The new disc is both a departure from the original sound and a very focused, smart further development of it. Produced by Bernard Butler (Suede), it’s a rockier, crunchier affair; it has the same sharpness and presence (basically, treble) that the Suede and McAlmont & Butler discs had. It’s also more oriented towards rock and 60s girl groups than previous efforts. And there’s a lot less singing by Scott Paterson. The songs are better developed, too, resulting in a more coherent, poppier, complete album. And all of this is to good effect.
While Pitchfork observes that it’s “perhaps too far in the red too much of the time,” I think that’s its charm. It’s springtime and rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be louder this time of year. Shake loose the last bits of snow, crank open the windows and drive out the musty smells in your apartment. And turn up Sons & Daughters. You’ll like them.