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Album Review

Sgt. Splendor – ‘Occasions for Self-Congratulations’ [Album Review]



Occasions for Self-Congratulations is the title of Sgt. Splendor’s debut album, which dropped just a few days ago. A new project, Sgt. Splendor is made up of Kate Vargas (vocals) and Eric McFadden (vocals, guitar). Talking about the new release, Vargas says, “This record draws heavily from what we experienced during lockdown. It’s an abstract expression of that strange time.”

Recorded in Brisbane, California, with Mikel Ross and Travis Kasperbauer, who engineered and co-produced with Vargas and McFadden, the rhythm section on the album features Paulo Baldi (drums) and Dave Schools (bass).

McFadden explains:

“Sometimes things work out in life just like you want them to. It was an insane stroke of luck that Paulo and Dave were both available for the studio time we’d booked. They’re old friends of mine—Paulo and I have played together for years, and I was in the band Stockholm Syndrome with Dave. We didn’t even need to rehearse—we just went in and had fun with the songs. Total spontaneity.”

Embracing 11-tracks, Occasions for Self-Congratulations begins with “Whoopee Chateau,” which opens on a cool drum shuffle leading into a funky tune topped by Vargas’ distinctive voice, along with the mellow richness of McFadden’s tones.

From a subjective viewpoint, highlights on the album include “Michael Myers,” a trippy, funk-rock number about the universal desire for fame. As Vargas sings, “If you want to be famous / You’re going o have to go psycho.”

The sleazy, bluesy intro of “All Dead to Me” informs listeners they’re in for a treat dripping with the delicious rhinal timbres of Vargas’ sui generis voice – simultaneously mocking and hoarse. While “Don’t Make Me Explain” half glides and half meanders on wallowing textures of blues as McFadden’s drawling tones imbue the lyrics with profound melancholy.

Sgt. Splendor in 2022

A Spanish-flavored guitar opens “I Ain’t Gone” and then flows into a low-slung blues tune, measured and soft. Gently pulsing, the bassline accompanies the duetting wistful voices of Vargas and McFadden. A personal favorite, the guitars on “Crash Dancing,” for some reason conjure up suggestions of Joe Walsh with James Gang, thick and growling, with a sweet harmonic shift.

The last track, “You Laughed at Me,” offers a funked-out rhythm with McFadden’s dazzling guitar injecting skiffing accents while Vargas struts her inimitable voice.

Blending groovy funk and scrumptious, slippery blues on Occasions for Self-Congratulations, Sgt. Splendor demonstrates what alt-funk and desert roots are all about.

Catch the band live on select dates as listed here.

Occasions for Self-Congratulations Track Listing:

1. Whoopee Chateau
2. Buck Dharma
3. Michael Myers
4. Sylvia
5. All Dead To Me
6. Don’t Make Me Explain
7. Gemini
8. I Ain’t Gone
9. Freakification
10. Crash Dancing
11. You Laughed At Me

Run Time: 39:54
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Record Label: Terminus Records