Spunsugar deliver a satisfying wave of nostalgia indebted to shoegaze, dream pop, and post-punk that feels like a hug from the past.

Release date: November 17, 2023 | Adrian Recordings | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

I miss the comfort in being sad,‘ sang a very uncomfortable and very sad man in the early 1990s. That sentiment was well alive before then, but alternative rock of the late ’80s and early ’90s embraced this feeling, notably in the hard-to-pin down genre of shoegaze. There has been something of a shoegaze renaissance as of late with new albums from classic acts like Slowdive and Drop Nineteens as well as new takes on the genre from artists like They Are Gutting A Body Of Water and Hotline TNT.

I’m here for it. I have always been a sucker for atmospheric music, and the way dream pop and shoegaze can mix heavy guitar work, effects, and soft vocals provides soundtracks to sunny days, long drives, winter nights, and a retinue of feelings to accompany solace. Anytime shoegaze pops up as an artist description from our editor, I am going to check it out. This allowed me to find Sweden’s Spunsugar and their latest offering A Hole Forever.

Spunsugar are a three piece band that hail from small towns and describe themselves as ‘farmer offsprings, bible belt kids of fundamentalists, and trailer trash,‘ a description that makes me think they are either an incredibly angry punk band or an offbeat religious folk band. Luckily, they have harnessed their shared love of ’90s alternative into a catchy synthesis of shoegaze, dream pop, and post-punk.

A Hole Forever opens with “Metals” whose opening riffs and drum beats immediately bring about a feeling of nostalgia before the vocal harmonies kick in. Cleanly sung by two vocalists, the melody is hooky and sweet. The chorus breaks down into clean, low bass tones that amplify its sing along quality. “Metals” is a very strong opening track that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Spunsugar sort of inverses this trick on “San Jose” where the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics of Pixies takes over. The chorus is a little similar to the previous one, but the track is darker in mood and features programmed drums along gaited reverb acoustic drums. It almost begs to be remixed into a dance track. Following tracks “Zeppo” and “White Sneakers” ramp up the synthy new wave flourishes and overdriven guitars, at times almost sounding industrial. For all of the melancholy, they know how to have fun.

The mixing on the album is well balanced, no single element taking over the others. This can be a pitfall in some shoegaze, where the guitars are so much the center of attention that they swallow the bass and vocals. In the same vein, the vocals that often become the forefront of rock records are turned up enough to be understood without taking away from the soft coos and deep vocals shoegaze and post-punk are known for. “Flaws” displays this well as a late album ballad full of guitar and synth textures and guest vocals from Andreas Matteson that serve as support amidst the clouds of reverb and driving bass and drums.

The tradeoff is that by the end of the album, some of the songs feel a little too similar to each other. Any one of the tracks on A Hole Forever would be an exceptional single on its own right, but by the end of closing track “Taxidermy” (which features the most gorgeous vocal melody on the album) I find myself wishing that some of the loud parts were more abrasive and the gentle parts more hypnotic. This is more of a vibe-out than rock-out record, which isn’t a bad thing, but knowing the lush textures Spunsugar is capable of, seeing them explore those ideas with more experimentation would be exhilarating.

A Hole Forever wears its influences on its sleeve, and there is a lot to love if you like those influences. It is an album that will soothe the soul with its charm and feels effortless in its nostalgia worship. Fans of Lush and The Cocteau Twins will find comfort here as much as new fans to the genre with Spunsugar‘s penchant for soft earworm melodies over pillowy guitars and snappy beats. If there is comfort in being sad, it is here.

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