Sugarland – The Incredible Machine

Sugarland immediatly became popular upon their arrival six years ago.  Since that time the band has continued to challenge and change genre boundaries.  Does The Incredible Machine continue in this direction?

The Incredible Machine starts off with atmospheric, up-tempo ballad “All We Are” and immediately shows off why Jennifer Nettles is one of the best vocalists in any genre of music, let alone country music.  The song is about how the power of love can overcome anything.  The title song is about the human heart and it’s amazing ability to heal  and make you feel awesome, particularly when you’re in love stating simply: “Call it an Incredible Machine.” Top 5 hit and first single “Stuck Like Glue” begs you to get this reggae-infused ditty about love against all odds out of your head (go on I double dog dare ya!).

Sugaland has always scored a few brownie points in my mind when they break out fantastic ballads and “Tonight” is no exception.  Jennifer shows off her talent vocally here while Kristian Bush provides solid harmonies and instrumental accompaniment.  This one feels like it will be not only a big ole hit for Sugarland (perhaps a cross-over hit) but also something used for sports commercial promotions like the NCAA College Basketball Championships this upcoming March.   “Stand Up” brings back some atmospheric pop/rock mechanisms with a song that is all about standing up for what you believe in stating “Won’t you stand up and use and your voice.” 

“Every Little Girl Like Me” is a song about believing in yourself and that there is someone out there to love you.  “Little Miss” was one of the four preview tunes sent to iTunes before the release of The Incredible Machine and it feels like the most likely contender to score massive, non-polarizing appeal at country radio.  It’s all about recovering from a terrible break-up.   Find The Beat Again brings up some of the ‘steampunk’ stuff that Sugarland mentioned when the record was being recorded and for many people it will feel weird but to me it is an interesting song (even if it’s not really a country song) with call and response parts and other ‘strange’ things that country fans aren’t used to hearing on a record.  “Wide Open” once again returns Sugarland to the wide, atmospheric melodies of a couple of tracks on Incredible Machine while the album closing Gospel-tinged “Shine The Light” closes out the album on the brightest of bright spots and highest of high notes.  It’s spiritual and romantic all at the same time which can be a tricky thing to do. 

The incredible Machine may not be the ‘same-ol’ album and it certainly isn’t something that’s even remotely traditional country music but what the album turns out to be is a fantastic rumination on the human condition of life, love and the meaning of.  It’s also an album that will appeal to the wide variety of fans who now listen to music because for most of these fans the only ‘genre’ of music is good music and that’s certainly what Sugarland’s fourth (non holiday or live) album is.  I’ve had about two months to get to know this album and The Incredible Machine is a very, very good album and one of my favorites of the year.

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