Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Album Review :: Small Black - Best Blues
October 16 2015 (Jagjaguwar)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
Small Black have been away for a while. It is almost three years since their last full length offering, but they return with ‘Best Blues’, their third album and one which has apparently taken them a year to write and record.
That time frame isn’t as obvious as it can be with some long-gestated recordings. The band’s signature synth-heavy, almost electro-pop, sound backs Josh Kolenik’s strident vocal and there’s very little deviation from that formula. It is really rather jolly for an album which the band claims is all about the sense of loss, a slightly odd juxtaposition which constantly gives the listener pause for thought.
To this end, opening number ‘Personal Best’ is something of an outlier, being all throbbing rhythm as Kolenik’s voice soars above the gloom. ‘No One Wants It To Happen To You’ is an altogether jauntier number with some interesting electronic trickery to end it, whilst single ‘Boys Life’ provides the album’s one downtempo number, with distinct echoes of Talk Talk along the way. The lyric, with its references to a ‘loss of wonder’ and a ‘sea of pasts’ will strike a chord with anyone who has ever, well, grown up at all, really.
Small Black do save the best for last on this record, though. ‘Smoke Around The Bend’ is an intense, intriguing number with a lot more instrumentation than comes across on the other tracks, but this is topped by the closing ‘XX Century’, a soaring, elegiacal, number full of swirling electronica and pounding beats. It is a fitting end to what is a very fine return indeed.