Los Angeles – Small Black may be the most underrated band in indie rock. After crafting two terrific LPs, can the band’s new LP Best Blues finally serve as their breakthrough record? Let’s back track for a moment. On their debut, New Chain, the Brooklyn quartet fell into the genre of chillwave. With lo-fi production and hazy melodies, the synth-pop record was spellbinding and eclectic. Their follow-up album Limits of Desire arrived three years after their debut and demonstrated a change of direction. A much more personal and mature record, Small Black included more acoustic guitars, alongside live drums as opposed to exclusively sticking with synths. On Best Blues, lead singer Josh Kolenik seems as if he is whispering his words. He isn’t showy or belting out the lyrics, but displays a discreet delivery. However, within the ten glistening tracks, you can sense a deep emotional attachment. Ryan Heyner (guitar/keyboards), Juan Pieczanski (bass/guitar), and Jeff Curtin (drums) round up Small Black. Best Blues delves into the realm of melancholic pop with wistful melodies and wondrous hooks. As the record continues to play on, you become lost inside the land of Small Black and frankly, there aren’t too many records this year you would rather get lost in.
As I speak about being lost in Best Blues, one of the themes of the record is personal loss. A particular loss of the people you were the closest to. The opener, “Personal Best,” has a specific line that could resonate with a lot of people…”I see you running out of time.” Small Black does a lot of exploring here. Not only with their exquisite sound, but lyrically as well. There’s this regretful tinge in Kolenik’s voice that occupies both a delicate and devastating tone as it is layered over a tuneful arrangement. “No One Wants It To Happen To You” is a peaceful gem that expands the group’s sound palette. With a repetitive chorus of the song’s title, there’s definitely a sense of vulnerability for sure. The first single “Boys Life” lyrically touches upon deep sentiment yet provides a nightclub synth composition. “The Closer I Look” is breezy, soulful, and sepia-toned. The reverb-doused track supplies an emotional punch as many of the songs on Best Blues so effortlessly do. It’s difficult not to describe this record as bittersweet, delicate, or easy listening. “Big Ideas, Pt. 2” displays Kolenik’s ethereal vocals in the foreground while a pulsating bass line supports the background. Once again, the assortment of songs are pretty, appealing, and mostly subtle.
“Back At Belle’s” blurs the line between chillwave and synthpop. The haziness found on the earlier work of Small Black is evident here. It’s another song that gives off a sense of longing. “Between Leos” is striking with a dreaminess that touches upon the likes of The Cure. Best Blues holds together very well and if you like one or two songs right off the bat, chances are you will enjoy this entire record. “XX Century” is richly textured and beautifully composed. After absorbing the record in, it’s clear that Small Black is carrying a lot of emotional weight within their new series of songs. The breathtaking experience is worth every minute as Small Black looks back at a shattered past in the efforts to let it go and pursue new beginnings.
Check out Small Black on Facebook for info on their tour.
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