The Sweetest Condition – Edge of the World
Nashville-based The Sweetest Condition is a two-person outfit, Jason Reed Milner (music and synths) and Leslie Irene Benson (lyrics and vocals). Edge of the World is the band’s first full-length album, a follow-up to 2013’s Truth & Light EP.
Album Review of The Sweetest Condition: Edge of the World
My introduction to The Sweetest Condition was through the loudest, most aggressive track on this album, “Now.” It’s a song you might expect from a collaboration between Trent Reznor and Madonna. The edgy, industrial fabric – brilliant synth and background vocal distortion – combines with Benson’s voice, which sounds uncannily like Madonna’s. But that’s not the only reason. There’s a clear pop sensibility to the songwriting that recalls not just the Material Girl herself but also old-school pop music with a hint of ’80s new wave.
The key to the broad appeal of The Sweetest Condition’s songs is that they are exceptionally well-written and tightly performed. The changes in tempo and vocal phrasing are carefully planned and meticulously executed to capture the a pop music charm while remaining true to the music’s industrial core. In other words, if this is your style of music, you’ll like The Sweetest Condition because they perform it well; if this is not your style of music, you may still like this band. And, depending on the song, The Sweetest Condition’s music could find a home anywhere from a dance club to mainstream pop radio.
Structurally, Edge of the World is a complete package, with its song order constructed to ebb and flow, most satisfying to listen to in order, from beginning to end.
Aside from “Now,” most of the rest of the disc trends more synth-pop, with the NIN-esque harsh edge called upon less frequently but judiciously. Throughout the disc there’s perhaps as much Thompson Twins, Human League, and Eurythmics in the mix, stylistically.
Album-opener “Beyond the Blue” merges a catchy, energetic enthusiasm with a dominant pop-synth sound. Next, some of the bridges in “Control” are very ’80s pop.
A couple of the catchier pop-leaning numbers are “Fall in Line,” an energetically moderately dark song that builds in power and energy throughout and “Secret,” a catchy, rhtyhm-driven synth-pop tune that seamlessly blends seemingly-angry verses and sing-along choruses with its sultry bridge.
“The War is Over” is a powerful, slowly-building song that relies heavily on Benson’s vocal tone to maintain its edginess, with the support of Milner’s music lying subtly beneath it until bursting forth midway through; excellent song-construction and delivery are equally responsible for this engaging hurt-and-anger ballad. The mood is carried into “This Poison,” which just builds upon its predecessor’s power before relaxing a bit toward the end.
“Try” is another of the poppier songs, with its rhythm befitting a pop-dance number, with its rather Madonna-esque dramatic rhythmic pauses punctuating the otherwise driving beat.
But “Watch You Fall” may be my current favorite on the disc. The movement of the vocals around the melody, ebbing and flowing, dance in and around the song’s steady rhythm to give it a catchy off-center, slightly-off-balance, memorable flow.
Fittingly, from a musical and mood standpoint, the album bids farewell with “Without You.” Milner’s sometimes-busy, other-times-soft musical bed and heavy rhythms complement Benson’s rawly emotional vocals and troubled lyrics (“I can’t live without you/I’m nothing without you…”), maintaining the album’s painful, emotional theme to the bitter end.
Overall, Edge of the World is a well-written, lyrically and musically interesting disc that relies on a solid balance of rhythm, vocals, and controlled power to bridge the gap between its obvious genre (industrial synth-pop) and a broader listening audience.
The Sweetest Condition has no upcoming shows listed on its website, but that’s where you’d go to find out.