Amy Stroup is a Boston native who now calls Nashville home. Her last solo album was 2011’s The Other Side of Love Sessions, which was a fantastic record. Since then, Stroup has been performing and making music as an alter-ego named Sugar in Trent Dabb’s Sugar + the Hi-lows. She credits her work as Sugar and therapy for giving her the confidence and insight to write the songs on Tunnel, which are often dark and usually introspective.
Stroup wears her heart on her sleeve throughout the twelve songs on Tunnel. Each of the songs are over-flowing with emotion. In a good way. Between her lyrics and her potent vocals, she never fails to convey what she’s trying to. “Put your heart above the ground / When the darkness comes around, I’m pushing through the shadows / This is not going down,” she sings during “Finally Found Our Way,” the album’s subtle yet catchy opening track. “How far are we from yesterday? / Is it far away? / Is it gone?” she asks a bit nervously during “Far From Yesterday,” one of the album’s more melancholic tunes.
One of the things that makes Tunnel such a unique record is the fact that most of the songs can’t be categorized. Stroup simply wrote the songs she wanted to write, however they came out, never trying to adhere to the rules of a specific genre. “Sabotage,” for example, could be viewed as both a country and a pop song. And yet it doesn’t sound like what one would call country pop, such as artists like Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift. If anything, it’s more like dream pop or piano pop but neither of those distinctions properly define it either. I imagine that iTunes and the like would simply place the album in the singer/songwriter category, which is appropriate, but that’s more of a description of what the artist does than what the music actually sounds like. (Some singer/songwriters are country artists. Or folk artists. Or even pop artists. And so on and so forth.) You can’t really get a grasp on what an artist will sound like just because they’re in that category. But if I had to compare Stroup to other artists, I would say she has Ingrid Michaelson’s knack for infectious melodies and A Fine Frenzy’s ability to deliver lovely vocals that are light as air but emotionally heavy. If you put a gun to my head and said I had to classify her by one specific genre then I would go with pop because her melodies and hooks are often in the pop vein, even if her lyrics are usually more like searing country.
Tunnel is one of those records that’s best experienced by listening to the entire album in one sitting from start to finish. Each of the songs is capable of standing well on its own, as they’re all expertly crafted, but they have more potency when you listen to them together in the order that Stroup has intended one to listen to them in. These days, so many artists try to write singles and they wind up with albums that have a few great numbers and a whole lot of filler. I can assure you that none of the songs on Tunnel are filler. Far from it. Each is a chapter in the story told by the album in whole. The story of the past three years in the life of Amy Stroup. Three years that have taught her a great many things about life and love and finding oneself. Suffice to say she’s been on a remarkable journey and we’re lucky she’s telling us about it.