The Incredible Machine by Sugarland
Like machinery that’s constantly evolving and changing, this musically unpredictable duo has largely left the sunny, acoustic-based sound of 2004’s Twice the Speed of Life in the dust.
Constant creative inspiration and songs that resonate onstage are imperative for an act striving for long-term influence in music, but each song here sounds overly calculated, with an affluence of soaring “money notes” and mid- and up-tempo rockers purposefully crafted to keep an audience on its feet. “Find the Beat Again” finds the duo in pure Blondie mode, while Jennifer Nettles offers her best reggae rendition on the breakdown in “Stuck Like Glue.”
Overall, the album more closely resembles pop punk and arena rock than what’s generally considered “country” music. Kristian Bush’s raspy voice melds well with Jennifer’s pristine vocals on the anthemic “Stand Up.” They sound inspired on the piano-driven, Memphis soul excursion “Shine the Light.”
The broad spectrum of influences leaves the album feeling vaguely scattered. Despite this, the energy throughout is anything but mechanical.