Rubblebucket - Sun Machine

by Carrie Grayson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-08-24
Rubblebucket - Sun Machine
Rubblebucket - Sun Machine

Rubblebucket’s Sun Machine burns brightly with a dance beat in toe-tapping choruses, but exposes the fragile human condition with emotional lyrics; This juxtaposition focuses on life, love, and self-discovery through unavoidable personal battles. Rubblebucket will go on extensive tour this fall in support of their album and will be backed by the up-and-coming bands, Caroline Rose, Diet Cig, and Star Rover to name a few.

Rubblebucket is Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth, a duo out of Brooklyn, New York. They have a background as jazz musicians but have years of indie pop music they have created together since 2009. Their latest album appears to be a compilation of all they have gone through over the years: falling in and out of love with each other, Traver’s ovarian cancer and treatment, and Toth’s alcoholism and road to recovery. Both Kalmia and Alex express their time of turmoil and emotional upheaval in verse, while simultaneously producing infectious, catchy melodies. It is their strongest music to date, suggesting their relationship is complicated yet highly creative. The music on Sun Machine is a rolling boil of emotions masked in an energetic jazzy dance vibe that breaks free in every song. On the album, they artfully control the heat to play at a low temperature and then suddenly switch to blast the instruments/vocals on high, leaving the listener absorbed and captivated.

The album begins with, “What Life Is,” a burst of energy and jazzy horns, but quickly leans into a sultry Kalmia Traver vocal. She sassily questions everything about living in New York and feeling very small and insignificant among eight and a half million people. “What Life Is,” contains the anxiety of simply doing the same thing day after day, along with the fear of not finding love, but also an awe for the opportunity to be in a city and experience it fully. The tune winds down with the repeated chorus, “Wish there was space to go, nobody has to know, windows are nice that way, I will not jump today.” It finishes with a cacophony of instruments, mainly horn blasts, to emphasize surviving another day.

Sun Machine is primarily a breakup album, despite the blazing up tempos and jazz driven beats. Each song wades through and carefully scrutinizes the hurt, pain, and difficulty of goodbye. “Annihilation Song” even equates the emotional experience to fighting in a boxing ring, while “Inner Cry” references to screaming in a pillow in pain and questioning a need for love riddled with difficulty. Again, the songs describe the harsh trudge through brokenness, but there is an underlying theme of learning to understand yourself, healing, and becoming new. It bursts with a joyful energy that is perceptive, hopeful, and clearly transformative.

There are three unusual breaks from the swimming, swirling sounds of the album. They arrive in the form of snippets of talk or even a bit of gibberish which each lasts less than a minute. “AURATALK,” defines aura and its importance, “HURTALK,” expresses hurt and the possibility as to why it exists, and “VANTALK” is a silly saying where they read it backward and forward. Each breaks up the sonic intensity of the album, but the interruption of its flow is a bit distracting. Perhaps they were experimental moments meant to shed a light on the duo and make it more personal.

From the painful one night stand experience of “Party Like Your Heart Hurts,” and reminiscing good times versus relationship struggles in the memorable and infectious stand-out tunes, “Donna,” “Fruity,” and “Lemonade,” there is an ease at which the songs expand with outstretched arms, open to the world and all it has to offer. The instruments are layered impeccably with stellar production and jazzy undertones, while the vocals are decisive and honeyed, emphasizing lyrics that are memorable enough to sing along. The final song, “Habit Creature”, concludes the album with advice for healing, get to know yourself and love yourself first, before loving someone else. The learned advice is cleverly presented in an up-tempo sunny, pop beat. The song concludes with an energetic instrumental embedded with guitar screeches, bleeping and gargling video game sounds, pounding drums, and horns, clearly expressing a healthy release of the painful past and a resolve to create a new narrative.

Kalmia discussed the album title, Sun Machine...

“It’s a reference to the sun as this abundant natural resource we all have available to us but it is also about the inner sun, the magma in our hearts. When you can access that, you’re able to get through really hard moments and evolve and develop creatively. I think that’s the best way to explain how I was able to work through the process of the two of us transforming our relationship in a positive way.”

Sun Machine is a complex album which tackles so much, and sonically recreates the fever pitch of love, the pain of it ending, and the possibility of moving on masked in an improvisational pop song. The paradox of the jazzy dance vibe and the powerful break-up is almost unrecognizable at first because it is easy to sink into the sweet, catchy beats, vocal variations, and unexpected sultry horn sections. But when focused on the vocals/lyrics, the stellar production, and the rollercoaster tempo changes, it satisfies the listener with substance and seasonings worthy of deeper exploration, multiple listens, and even a lively party playlist.

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