Album Review: Sister Suvi

Album: Now I Am Champion
Artist: Sister Suvi
Label: Common Clouds
Out: April 14th

Welcome to the third day of Reviews Week. Today, we're discussing Sister Suvi's Now I Am Champion. For those who may be unfamiliar to this point, they're a fun, freak-folk and noise trio made up of Merrill Garbus (of Tune-Yards), Patrick Gregoire and Nico Dann. In a rare feat, Garbus has managed to light up some corners of the music blogosphere with two separate efforts in the same year, so I'll warn you in advance that there is sure to be a greater focus on her at the beginning. However, that is not to discount the contributions and skill of the accomplished Gregoire and Dann, in their own rights. I just feel that a lot of the influence here stems from Garbus' stream of consciousness which she developed with Tune-Yards. That being said, we can now continue--

Now I Am Champion thrives on its use of off-kilter percussion parts, and a fast-paced, chaotic nature. While the vocals can, at times, sound like Buddy Holly, and others, touch on more tribal influences, the consistency is the haphazard and delightful game being constructed in the background. The clashing chords, both with guitar and chorus, and random inserts of sound here and there light up the entire aesthetic as it bounces between folk, noise and pop at a rapid, and alarming rate. With all of this stress on percussive work (which is fantastic, of course), you can't discount the intricate and technical guitar melodies which are at the heart of each track. Every one is touched with a bit of folk, while also employing a fair share of guitar pop sensibilities to move the songs along at a steady, and provocative pace. Goofy, yet appreciated country gang vocals also make a few guest appearances to further this in-between-genres duel of chance, surprisingly to much success.

Don't let all of these weighty, wordy descriptions fool you either. As much as Sister Suvi bases this entire effort off of the intricacies of blending several different types of music into one cogent, and persuasive argument, this is, in essence, a pop record. The difference, of course, is in what types of pop they're going for at any given moment. Likewise, these moments are never without a counterpoint of some lesser-used element. Freak-folk and noise are the first two that come to mind, but I'd like to believe that 1950s rock 'n' roll plays a roll too, along with a bit of hair metal. I just love all of the sounds that manage to mix themselves into this effort, which lasts just nine tracks, yet manages to fit in so much thought. It flows, then it's mechanical, then its flying, and then it's a frenzied indie mess that alludes to reggae and hip-hop. The word "dizzying" probably doesn't even do it justice. The fact is that you can't sit still while listening to this, yet in no way would I consider it danceable. Rather, Now I Am Championshould be considered a sound record, of epic proportions. It evokes every emotion imaginable, and tosses us into the middle of such a hodgepodge of influences that we are forced either to fight our way out, or simply go with the flow.

All things considered, a record that jumps, stops and starts as much as this one does has no business garnering such high praise. Yet, I can't help but say great things about it. How can a record like this go largely unnoticed by the larger community of indie bloggers, and the indie scene in general? Garbus is a well-kept secret. for the most part, except around here, where she does have a bit of a celebrity. I'd tell you that you'll love Now I Am Champion if you love music, but of course, that's not true. Sadly, in order to enjoy an effort like this, not only do you have to appreciate each element individually, but you've got to be able to handle their marriages in such a disorganized fashion. If you can agree with all of that with confidence, then yes, perhaps Now I Am Champion is your new favorite album. Give it a chance. Even if you don't get it right off the bat. Like so very few records, it grows on you with each listen, and once your head is finally wrapped around it all, it may just explode. Really. Similarities may possibly include Garbus' Tune-Yards, Islands and Here We Go Magic.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Track: "American"

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