Bathed in both darkness and light—sunshine, lilacs, and apple pies contrast with loneliness, heartbreak, and fear—Patches & Gretchen's sophomore album, Sugar Head Pie, offers a glimpse into singer-songwriter Gretchen Seichrist's unique, dichotomous worldview. This split consciousness is demonstrated in the CD's artwork: The front cover is a kaleidoscopic nightmare playhouse where Seichrist roams as an agitated mom, Grey Gardens style, cigarette dangling from mouth, while the back portrays Seichrist as a fair maiden in an ethereal white gown, eating a pie with her bare hands, sweet and shy.
The follow-up to 2008's Music from Little Big Pink, Sugar Head Pie is rich and fertile. The album's musical influences are vast—psychedelia, folk, blues, country, punk, and a little Irish jig thrown in the pot. Seichrist has gathered an incredible crew of musicians, including guitarists Terry Eason and David Loy, drummer Derek Rolando, bassist Al Schroeter, and—on everything from production and guitar to ping-pong-ball shaker duty—Sparta Studio's Rich Mattson. Seichrist and her boys create a communal, everyone-grab-an-instrument, pass-the-wine-and-shout vibe.
The lyrics are charged with politics, feminine identity, and poetics. At first seeming stream-of-conscious, Seichrist's words later reveal their complexity. On the opening track, "Time of the Lilacs," Eason gets the '60s party started with his guitar as Seichrist sings: "Watch out for the deaf child/Did he make it or was he run down?/Was he raised gently?/With no sound." In her take on breakups, "I'm Tired of Chicken," she sings with a Dorothy Parker-meets-Nico vibrato: "And if it makes you feel better/I'll soon be knitting sweaters/With a cat on my lap/In unbearable lonely winters."
The title track is a smoke-filled lullaby, full of colorful imagery: Cherry buds fill turquoise water, eyelids are dusted gold, and mini-skirted buzzards fly around. Seichrist is equally colorful; her presence, both physically and through her artistic voice, has a strange luminescence. She is beautiful in her imperfection.
Sugar Head Pie weaves a colorful quilt, from the quiet melancholy of "Sweet Wolves" to the Velvet Underground guitar jangle of "Take the Gauze Off" to the mystic and dulcimer-soaked closer, "Everything Is Indian." Sugar Head Pie is stunning in its scope and beauty, continually revealing and dazzling—a perennial.
PATCHES & GRETCHEN play a CD-release show with Kevin Bowe and the Okemah Prophets, Liminal Phase (featuring Adam Levy), Dan Israel, and host Magic Mike on THURSDAY, MARCH 11, at the VARSITY THEATER; 612.604.2222