New Music – Sugarcane ‘Cats Eye’s’ Album Review

Having already dived in to the title track ‘Cat Eye’s‘ in an earlier review. When the album finally followed suit we couldn’t wait to plunge back into that jet black bossa nova beat.

Throughout the album there is this constant contrast between the dagger sharp English wit and lyricism and the sashay of the sexy Caribbean rhythm.

The song writing delights in this interplay, letting the two seemingly opposing disciplines bring out the best I eachother.

The shadows cast pitch black, the light is dazzlingly bright. The album dances a beautiful strut in the gorgeous grey of the middle.

The album begins with ‘One Specific Thing‘ a track that perfectly sets the mood of the album to come.

The bossa nova beat pumping the songs  lifeblood is unmistakable and you are instantly carried away on the sweet scent emanating from the steel drum.

Just as the bossa nova chords live largely in minor keys, so do the deviously dark lyrics that make up this song. A cuttingly poignant look back at an abusive relationship, delivered beautifully softly with gorgeous vocal work from Antonia Thomas.

The next song follows suit lyrically but instead of poet dark it’s cheeky bright with a sardonic grin on its lips.

Blondes (Have More Fun)’ is a not at all subtle dig through the ribcage of the music industry and how different it can treat you based purely on the colour of your skin.

It has this effortlessly cool groove at the heart of it that pulses with the bubbling bossa beat. Towards the end of the song a little riffing solo plays out the tune of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and the context of the song is completely laid bare.

Midland Girls‘ takes the tempo down a little, and introduces a more bittersweet and even more meloncholic sound.

It’s essentially a song charting the death of youth and beauty, and how sad that can be for those shallow few who live their life only finding these truths surface deep.

As the title track you’d be right to expect a lot from ‘Cats Eye’s‘ and it truly delivers. It is everything else that the album serves up distilled and purified into a single perfect piece.

The juxtaposition between the sweetly soft vocals, the ambient feel good vibrations of the music, and the deeply dark world of the song itself is a beautiful piece of song craft.

It makes the constellations of the soundscape all shine that much brighter with a dazzling bittersweet element added into the Caribbean sway.

With ‘Bethnal Green Blues‘ we see a much more fragile and self deprecating Britishness to the song writing. It’s wickedly clever and wonderfully fragile.

It takes the tempo up a little with an easy sway in its rhythm, the soundscape is every bit as deliciously layered but it sound even more full after the raw and pure hit from ‘Cats Eye’s

Forevermore‘ closes out the more maudlin middle of the album with the track actively shattering under the weight of the gloom about halfway through.

From out of the shattered pieces this irrepressibly joyous Caribbean sound begins to take over again playing that bossa nova beat on the skeletal ribcage of what came before.

It once again highlights how the dark and light come together to dance this cosmic oddity. Weaving the chaos into order, and smiling to itself as the opposites fall hopelessly in love.

Shambala Mess‘ picks up where the track before left off highlighting the instrumentation and relationships behind the music.

With a longer time and softer delivery of the vocals the shape of the song and the layering soundscape of the music takes centre stage. It’s an excellent opportunity to get lost in the beautiful bossa nova that the album is built on.

With ‘Clear Blue Sky‘ the spellbinding vocals of guest vocalist Antonia Thomas rightfully take the spotlight.

Out of every song on the album it could be argued in sound and structure it feels the most easily accessible to the casual audience.

It has this captivating chorus at its centre which the rest of the track tendrils out from.

Josephine‘ that most musicians know well. You can hear the resonance of the lyrics ringing out emotively in every instrument.

It’s a song about loving someone but not being able to give them the time and attention they deserve while on the road.

The foot stomping rhythm that flows freely from out the shaker of ‘Wide Sargasso Samba‘ is bound to get you dancing.

It twists, twirls, and twines it’s sexy legs around your soul from out the speaker. The lyrics singe themselves even darker than black over the hell fires they delicately dance above.

Night Owl‘ acts as a lullaby and finale for the album. It is beautifully soft and light and the steel sits this one out, the rhythm coming more from shake and rattle than roll.

As a whole Cats Eye’s does what any truly good album does, it takes the listener on a journey.

If you are unfamiliar with bossa nova music, then as an introduction the music is beautifully crafted to introduce you to every nuance, nook, and niche of the sound. It is so much more than the rules that make it.

If you are already a fan of bossa beats and world music then the journey will be a more lyrical one. The sugar sweet bitterness of every song is painfully poetic and punchingly poignant.

This is truly masterful song writing. Taking a genre or sound and exploring new and darker corners of it. Yet still, the joyful spark of the bossa nova beat casts such a brilliant light that there is a pitch black perfection to the shadows.

Stay tuned to Sugarcane on Soundcloud or Bandcamp for new releases.

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Words by Matt Miles

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