4 out of 5
Label: See-Thru Broadcasting
Produced by: Mike G
An album of obsession… and ridiculous pop hooks.
Recorded in an intimate lo-fi manner that picks up a background ringing phone and stray chatter, Mike G’s Sugar Daddy also rings the utmost fidelity out of that, using a sparse drums / bass / guitar mix to effect simple, but memorable, melodies that can rather surprise with their undercover richness, making it worth a wonder how lo-fi this recording may actually be.
…A duality that’s also possibly represented in the lyrics, which are either just a collection of sappy love / crush odes, or a purposefully strung together tale of obsession. And I really don’t think it’s the latter, but at the same time, there’s always been something bubbling under the surface of Sugar Daddy that pushes it beyond its hooks – something that makes it sad moments all the more affecting; and its sun-shiney moments curiously tweaked. Mixed in, you get the Ween-ish, potentially offensive Asian Girl – I mean, lyrically, it’s just about noticing that Asian girl across the street, but maybe we want to criticize the stereotypical “Asian” sounding guitar that accompanies that – and then Mike steps off the girls / dating / romance stories for the oddball observational Nothing in the Sky (one of the most satisfyingly grungy tracks on the disc) – but in both cases, these fit with the album’s themes of tunnel-vision thinking, and the trickery of how crushes and whatnot can seem so simple and innocent, but also instantly become something else depending on how we express ourselves…
And I am certainly reading too much into Sugar Daddy, but it’s why I’ve always loved this album: kicking off with the stupidly straight-forward Clothing Store Girl – trying on clothes for your retail store crush, just because – and then tip-toeing into more and more alarming expressions of that as the tracks go on… though under the guise of the most pleasant of pop, or stripped down to flashes of more barebones, Beatles / Elliot Smith-esque moments, as on Anything You Want. That the album ends with Move On seems suggestive of a linear story being told, ready to be put on loop so we can relive this rather recognizable cycle of affection, again and again.
A pop rock record that’s always remained close to my playlist, and one I’m always surprised I can’t push on people more easily, though I suspect the album’s undercurrent of something being off – that the songs are more creepy than loving, perhaps, but in a way that feels likely recognizable to feelings / behaviors we’ve had – may be responsible for that. But that offness is also what makes it such a gem, besides the irrepressibly ear-wormy hooks.