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Golden Apples might currently be one of the best kept secrets in guitar music, but their new full-length, Bananasugarfire, is about to change that. The boldly titled album is an undeniable, kaleidoscopic blast of fuzzed out guitars, joyful songwriting, and vibrant production that’s as human as it is hooky. It’s exactly what a truly great indie rock album can be: fun yet fulfilling, inventive yet inviting, confident yet candid–music that lifts you up with melody, noise, and heart.
Arriving hot on the heels of 2021’s Shadowland and 2022’s Golden Apples, Bananasugarfire continues Golden Apples’ prolific streak. Whereas Shadowland was more of a solitary recording project of vocalist/guitarist Russell Edling, and the self-titled involved a more spontaneous revolving door of collaborators, something definite and resolute is happening on Bananasugarfire: the collective has become collected, the band has arrived. Golden Apples’ line-up solidified last year into the combination of Edling, drummer Melissa Brain (Marge, Goshupon, Amanda X, Cave People, Yankee Bluff), bassist Matthew Scheuermann (Lowercase Roses, Petal), and Mimi Gallagher (Eight, Nona, Year of Glad, Cave People), and Bananasugarfire is imbued with a tangible camaraderie that elevates the sum of its talented parts.
Recorded at Metal Shop with Zack Robbins, The Bunk with Matt Schimelfenig, and at the home Edling and Gallagher share, the colorful, open hearted, and widescreen yet intimate Bananasugarfire feels like the most fully realized version of Golden Apples to date. “This record really feels like the band,” Edling explains. “My favorite parts of the album are where I can hear someone else’s idea taking form, an idea I never would have arrived at. I wanted to get the best of both worlds: to properly record with the band in the studio and then spend a bunch of time also tinkering around on my own like I did with the first record, but this time Mimi was there in the basement tinkering with me.” Gallagher’s role is a key element to the magic of Bananasugarfire, providing dynamic guitarwork, sugary vocal interplay, and another keen ear to help hone the detailed recordings that make the album so rewarding on repeat listens.
Bananasugarfire also marks a shift in Edling’s lyrical approach. While previous releases found him swallowed up in existential doubt and bewilderment, there’s now an understanding that for all the intrinsic darkness of life, there is also a countering light–even if accessing it often takes hard earned perspective and persistence. “I just think in the past few years I’ve really come around to the idea that there’s real tangible power behind your emotions,” he explains. “If you go out in the world and put bad energy out there, I think it actually has an impact, and I think it works the opposite way, too. Being aware of your emotions and the way you carry yourself is sort of a responsibility.”
Like the previous two Golden Apples albums, Bananasugarfire opens with a sub-two minute, quasi-introductory song that sets the stage for the record to come. “Anti-Ant Car” starts fittingly with Edling in Martin Newell-mode, a solitary jangling man surrounded by tape hiss–but then the band joins in and the world turns 3D through a steadily cresting melody that arrives at pure musical elation. “Guardstick” picks up that momentum and runs with it, all towering wall of fuzzed out guitars and shimmering production that somehow layers more and more impossibly catchy melodies on top of one another. The band sound huge, and Edling sounds fearless as he sings about the need for kindness in an increasingly callous world. “We’re in a moment where ‘not being corny’ is such a big piece of social capital, and I think that makes it hard to put yourself out there in such an unabashedly optimistic way,” he says. “There’s a part of me that’s afraid to say things that are this sort of openly positive in a song because that’s just not the type of thing that people respond to anymore. I always thought it was the most daring thing to confess sadness and depression in a song, but now I see it’s much more intimidating to express joy.”
On tracks like “Waiting For A Cloud,” “Sugarfire,” and “Materia,” Golden Apples manage to utilize echoes of college rock greats like Yo La Tengo, Pixies, and Stereolab, but break free of mere homage by having personality to spare. The record feels like a musical patchwork, stitching together familiar influences in ways that result in something new. “Park (Rye)” highlights this with layered drum machines flourishes and interlocking guitar lines, sounding like some alternative universe where The Stone Roses wrote a song with Sparklehorse.Bananasugarfire is one of the most jubilant sounding albums of the year, but it doesn’t simply dismiss the challenging parts of life. Growing older, the losses that come with the passing of time, and self-doubt are all there, but Golden Apples argue that if the good things are impermanent, then so too are the bad. “Sometimes it seems like people think it’s naive to be hopeful,” Edling says. “The disillusionment is ubiquitous in nearly every interaction we have, but there’s truth to it. Maybe this record is a coping mechanism, but I think you can be relatively nihilistic while also being kind and loving.” It’s this embrace of life’s messiness that makes Bananasugarfire feel so impactful: it’s not about blind positivity, it’s about a conscious effort to try even in the face of complexities that often seem overwhelming. True to its title, Bananasugarfire is unique, playful, memorable, and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.