New York folk/indie-rock duo Supersmall‘s This Other World captures the balance between composed and wide-open songwriting that is common in artists from across the pond: Johnny Flynn, Fionn Regan, and Eoin Glackin.
Big, warm, resonant acoustic guitar chords are held in line by calm, distinctly enunciated tenor vocals on the title track; rattling drums add to the ambiance. “Goodbye Old Friend” continues the cheery, upbeat folk vibes. The more serious “Wherever We Are” and “This Grenade Will Love You” invoke a little Ben Folds plaintiveness in the vocals, giving the EP some firm grounding and diversity. Tasteful keys appear in several areas, providing some atmosphere on tracks like the more romantic, swooning “Everywhere.”
Overall, This Other World is a neat introduction to a warm, friendly folk duo. There’s a lot of promise throughout in this short EP, as the band has given themselves a lot of ways to spread out from here. It will be interesting to see which of their strengths they play up as they continue to produce music. For now, there’s a cheery few minutes for you in This Other World.
I broke out Nik Freitas’ Saturday Night Underwater this week, because its AM-pop gold was on my mind. I’ve got the soft way on my mind because of Monsenior‘s self-titled EP, which is an excellent example of the form itself. The Irish duo is meticulous in its song constructions, purveying sweet pop melodies and tight arrangements to go with them. The band gives the RIYL of Bright Eyes, but it’s much closer to Supertramp, Paul Simon, even Fleetwood Mac (at its most structured, not its “Tusk” weird era).
“Seven Bells” leans on a gentle guitar riff, shakers, tambourine, rolling piano and pressing bass, creating that old driving feeling. You can put your top down to this one, but it’s the knowing-cool sort of drive, not the the giddy-freedom sort of trip. “Head Screwed On” is a jaunty acoustic tune that reminds me of Fionn Regan and (again) Paul Simon; that’s high praise from over here. The winding lead guitar melody expands into a wide-open pop tune, complete with either spoons or tapdancing. That’s the sort of tune I can get behind! Each of these four tunes are supported by intricate arrangements that don’t self-consciously draw attention to themselves, which is nice in the chamber-pop era. (Don’t worry, I still love chamber-pop. But the change of pace is nice!)
If you’re disillusioned by the fact that rap, dubstep, country, rock and pop are all converging as one amorphous pop sound, let Monsenior’s four-song EP remind you that in the minds of at least a few holdouts, pop means something specific. Cheery hooks, acoustic guitar, piano (“Simple Miss”), and an unassuming backing band are all you need to get an overall shine to your pop. Monsenior has those things in spades. Here’s to pop music.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.