Album: Blood Tears
Release Date: 17 September 2013
Reviewer: Zaq Baker – Top 100/Alt Genre Director
Review Date: 23 October 2013
Longtime fans of Sandra Vu may find it difficult to listen to an album like Blood Tears without comparing it to SISU’s diversity of highly lauded prior work under other monikers. Bands like Dum Dum Girls and The Raveonettes leap to mind as examples of Vu’s lending her widely praised musical talents to a variety of projects and recordings. However, Vu’s debut full-length is as much a reflection of her own artistic determination and foresight as it is a record devoted to musical eclecticism and exploration.
Vu uses the first track, “Counting Stars,” to establish an engaging, complex aesthetic that is at once morose and driving; the track combines lashing, heavy percussion with ambient electronic shapes and insistent guitar patterns, a theme that persists throughout the album. “Harpoons” and “Electric” each reconcile synthy bass lines with a powerful backbeat, featuring dramatic highs and lows in emotion from verse to chorus and back. Swells like these showcase Vu’s impressive vocal range; tracks like “Sinking Feeling” firmly cement SISU as an artist highly capable of multi-instrumental talent and informed, intelligent writing.
Without overtaking the actual music at hand, production on Blood Tears accents Vu’s writing and instrumental strengths. Given her experience as a percussionist, it’s not surprising that a heavy-hitting drumset governs most of the album, but raw guitar and reverbed synthesizer ostinatos accent Vu’s enchanting vocal lines and cryptic, moody lyrics. Toward the end of the album, “Shotgun Running” and the title track, “Blood Tears,” highlight Vu’s finely honed ability to craft emotional and thought-provoking verses. Throughout the album, she sings themes of tireless but unanswered love, lamenting the complexity and uncertainty of modern romance.
In its nuance and broad demonstration of Sandra Vu’s gifts in writing and performance, Blood Tears offers listeners an ambitious follow-up to Light Eyes, the EP she released in April under the SISU name. More than that, though, the album sounds suspiciously like a statement of Vu’s intentions: to keep making great solo records. Given the short amount of time between Light Eyes and Blood Tears, hopefully listeners can expect another full-length from SISU soon.