Black Watch at All Music

Named after an obscure John Lennon quip on an outtake of A Day in the Life, Sugarplum Fairy, Sugarplum Fairy is the 18th record by prolific L.A. indie stalwarts the Black Watch. At this point in their 26-year career, the band is (and generally has been) essentially singer/songwriter John Andrew Fredrick, who plays every instrument aside from drums on this strong, fuzzed-out collection of strident, thoughtful indie pop. Echoes of mid-’90s underground indie rock, blissful shoegaze, and wistful guitar pop are threaded throughout the album’s 11 tracks, most of which break the four- and five-minute mark with alternately lush and stinging guitar drones and experimental textures. Even clothed as such,Fredrick still hits his mark as a songwriter with standouts like the melodic “Dear Dead Love” and the stately “Good Night, Good Night, Good Night.” The unusual pacing of the album is like a backward fuse, with all of the noise and electricity in the front half eventually fading into a trio of lovely acoustic numbers which, at times, harken back to the heyday of early-’70s British folk. Remarkably, it works and the subtlety of the gently faded “A Major Favor” and the gentle “Dear Anne” create a sort of warm, late album afterglow. It’s a testament to Fredrick‘s creative choices and exploratory nature. With 18 albums under his belt, he could easily phone it in, but Sugarplum only serves to build on the Black Watch‘s reputation with another high-quality release.