Disco, when viewed through the lens of the past forty years, has become a cliché, reduced to spaces where people dress up in outlandish outfits and dance to the overplayed staples of the much-maligned genre. Even now, releasing an album with disco undertones runs the risk of being viewed as inauthentic at best, or at worst, cheesy. So with Renny Wilson’s debut album, Sugarglider, and its unabashed love of the cloying genre, that risk becomes much greater. Fortunately for Wilson, he pulls it off with aplomb, and as a result, has released what will undoubtedly stand as one of the most interesting debuts of 2013.
Sugarglider opens with “By and By”, which builds on the back of a distant saxophone before morphing into its core – a funk groove that sounds like it was recorded with lossy compression somewhere in the distant future and sent back to the present. It’s the direction the entire affair ends up taking, with most of the songs on the album sliding seamlessly into each other. Overall, the album gets a little long in the tooth around the middle of song 7; however, the goodwill it built up over the course of the first half is enough to push the listener through the end. Sugarglider, in that sense, might have worked better without some of the excess – just tightened up a bit; overall though, the album’s high points stand far above any missteps Wilson makes.
While Wilson, who hails from Edmonton, might seem like he’s steeped in some romanticized version of music’s past, he’s not without an awareness of the modern landscape in which he finds himself. “Feel Like a Child”, interestingly, incorporates a riff from fellow Canadian Mac Demarco’s “Only You”, which I couldn’t quite place until I read the notes on Wilson’s website. That appreciation of disco’s better parts, updated for the present, is what makes this album work. Sugarglider, which used to be Wilson’s performing name, ends up being a single, singular nod to an era that has been oft-derided.
Wilson’s disco-opus is available on a wider basis next Tuesday, January 22nd, through Vancouver-based label Mint Records on vinyl, cassette, or digitally. Personally, I could use the heat it brings since the temperature is going to be getting down to 1° next week. In the dead of winter, Sugarglider is a welcome glimpse at the warmer weather to come.
Renny Wilson // By and By [mp3] from the forthcoming Sugarglider