Remember Sugar? Spa does. Sugar was the second band of Bob Mould, more affectionately known as the frontman for seminal punk outfit Hüsker Dü, and instead of crafting crazed punk-operas, Sugar was mainly focused on making ridiculously joyous guitar-based power-pop. Of course, that band has long-since deceased, but the feel-good riffing of that band (as well as Cheap Trick) can be felt all over Spa’s eponymous debut. Though at times overreaching (“Beautiful Punk” is more grating than it is catchy), this Auckland trio are primarily focused on bringing mid-tempo sunshine into your life, and tracks like the gorgeous “Neil of Diamonds” and the propulsive “Yale” do just that. For being such a quick-and-dirty debut album (nine tracks that clock in at just under a half-hour) that happens to be filled with enough jangle-joy to make Fountains of Wayne blush, it’s somewhat surprising that the best moment is actually the slowest one: “Growing Up” is the kind of alt-rock slow-dance track that works both as a prom-night ballad and a long-lost Eels b-side. It’s not a perfect disc, but at the end of the day, its feel-good vibes wind up steamrolling over any major grievances. This Sugar is pretty sweet.
// Notes from the Road
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