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Too much sugar in your musical diet? 

click to enlarge Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood
  • Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood

Can we talk about the role of sweetness in music? Reviewers may be dismissed as jaded grumps, but many admit that writing a happy song can be tougher than a sad lament. Still, too many new potentially great albums over-sugar their message. Take Natalie Mering, who crafts wonderful compositions as Weyes Blood. The most recent album, Titanic Rising (Sub Pop), is hailed as a masterpiece, but often resembles Sarah McLachlan with excess strings. It says something when the queen of Broadway sweetness, Sara Bareilles, launches a new album (Amidst the Chaos, Epic) that’s wiser and gutsier than Weyes Blood.

The same can be said for British electronic musician Bibio (Stephen Wilkinson), who tamed the drone and added nuanced nature sounds in Ribbons (Warp Records). Unfortunately, bird calls and augmentations evoke new-age echoes, which would not be counted as evolution by many music lovers. Perhaps the most diverse of the new sugary releases comes from Drugdealer, a project of Michael Collins. The new album Raw Honey (Mexican Summer) offers harmonies similar to those of folk supergroup The Campfire Flies, but goes heavy on effects suggesting The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour era. Some artists like Aimee Mann can add Beatlesesque shimmer, but Drugdealer often goes overboard in a bubblegum direction.

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