Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Returning and subscribing readers of the Independent Spotlight may very well already be familiar with a Louisiana-based outfit called The Links. Since April of 2015, I’ve showcased their music several times here on the website. By and large, the band has always proven to be remarkably eclectic and prolific. From the first time I delved into their music with a record called ‘Shopping Cow Funk,’ to the last entry for a short collection called ‘Rap Song EP,’ I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by the band’s music.
Now, The Links have eleven new songs available on an album entitled ‘Sucreland,’ which dropped last Friday. Is this latest entry in the group’s catalog worth picking up? How does it stack against its predecessors? There’s also a burning question to be answered: what genre and style have The Links opted to pursue this time around? (We’ve seen them explore funk, rock, folk, electronic, hip hop and more in the past.)
‘Sucreland’ aligns nicely as a follow-up of sorts to ‘Rap Song.’ Chronologically, though, I’m not sure where it falls. ‘Sucreland’ was a project that began in 2015, so it may have came before or during the sessions for ‘Rap Song.’ Like that EP, though, ‘Sucreland’ bases itself firmly within the realm of experimental alternative rock. In many ways, it’s the band's most fleshed out project as well.
‘What Does It All Mean?’ is a very accessible first song. The Links actually dabble in blues a bit, and that blues slowly evolves into a thicker, more complex landscape of surreal alt rock. It’s especially well performed and produced, but that’s also become a staple of The Links’ work. The Links are undoubtedly one of the most fine-tuned acts I’ve ever showcased on the Spotlight in regard to the production of their releases.
The band carried over ‘Rap Song’ from the last EP, which was an excellent idea. It was the strongest track of the three songs showcased in that EP last April. It remains a compelling recording to me because The Links combine a few very peculiar elements together within it: metal, screamo musings, alternative rock, and funk-inspired compositional elements. Their enthusiasm and prowess make all of that work together, surprisingly, and that’s one of the hallmarks of a great deal of their music.
‘Into the Sky’ is another intriguing track. It works particularly well near ‘What Does It All Mean?’ because both of the tunes are doused in a very mellow atmospheric jam style. The track lives and breathes on the back of its instrumentation; the lyricism is sharp, too, but the performances are the most key element. On ‘Waste of Time,’ a similar aura is apparent, but it’s accentuated even further with the collision of alternative crooning and metal screaming.
Briefly touching on that screamo style of vocals, it’s worth noting that The Links use it very sparingly. As such, it’s very effective as well, and it also won’t deter listeners who aren’t fans of that type of sound. The Links have done this with hip hop in the past as well, actually, by injecting small doses of other genres into their alternative rock.
‘What Do You Expect’ is one of the finer songs on ‘Sucreland.’ It’s an epic display of musical intensity throughout, and the final moments are absolutely stunning. Guest vocalist Savannah Jaine steals the show. When the instrumentation falls down to an acoustic guitar and shaker backing her, it’s a magical affair. I’d love to see The Links incorporate her a bit more in the studio in the future.
‘Pretty Little Sucre Jam,’ a short interlude, evokes the sound of a mid 1960s Cream jam session, a stark contrast to the track that follows, ‘Modela,’ one of the more melancholy efforts on the album. The lyricism on ‘Modela’ is one of the finer displays, too, and the electric guitar solo is absolutely captivating. Jordan Marola remains one of my favorite vocalists in the independent scene for his emotional range. He can maneuver from a whisper to a passionate scream, and I love that.
‘Hot Christmases’ borders on punk music in some ways. It’s an explosion of disarray. It’s organized chaos for the most part, and it’s definitely the hardest hitting piece of ‘Sucreland.’ The heavily reverberated ‘Underwater Lemmings’ is a nice reprieve from that intensity when it follows - a good case of smart sequencing.
In contrast to some of the songs that are more punchier affairs, tunes like ‘Rap Song’ and ‘Hot Christmases,’ ‘Rock Cobbler’ is a more lengthy experience that hodgepodges a lot of what ‘Sucreland’ explores into a single track. Oddly enough, the best part of the song comes at the four minute mark when the electric guitar takes center stage. It’s minimalistic in nature, but also absolutely wild and frenzied.
In truth, the only track on ‘Sucreland’ that doesn’t feel necessary is its finale, ‘Ethor.’ The song meanders a bit, and after the dynamic ‘Rock Cobbler,’ it feels somewhat aimless in direction. It’s still a solid tune. In fact, the weaker links The Links’ music are usually stronger than a good bunch of other act’s strongest. But ‘Ethor’ could have been left on the cutting room floor.
‘Sucreland’ takes everything there is to love about The Links and their sound and heavily amplifies it into a full album experience. As I expected, the band’s newest effort is one of the must-listens in the indie scene this month. Check it out below.