Small Black

Album Review: “Best Blues” by Small Black

A hint of My Bloody Valentine, a smattering of Neon Indian, a taste of The Cure-like guitar plucking and Small Black’s telltale heavy use of synthesizers and echoing vocals make Best Blues what it is: an eccentric collection of sentimental and memory-filled tracks that was inspired by water logged photos. Songs like “The Closer I Look”, “Boys Life” and “No One Wants it to Happen to You” and generally, every track has a sense of looking back. The tracks are able to capture the feelings you get when you’re flipping through old photo albums or in this day and age, scrolling through old photos stored on your computer.

“Personal Best” pulls you into the world Small Black has created around soggy photos lead singer, Josh Kolenik, rescued with a blow dryer from the wet ruins of his family’s flooded home in Long Island after Hurricane Sandy hit. Side note, the cover art for the record is one of these photos.This track is followed by one of the singles released before the record, “No One Wants it to Happen to You” which quite simply is about exactly with the title says. How many times do we as humans experience something difficult? At this moment, we feel things and think things we would never wish upon anyone else. This song encapsulates those moments where you realize you’re not alone when you’re in a difficult place. All you can do is ride it out, rise above and hope no one else finds themselves where you are.

We live in the dark, we do what we can.

The rest is up to you.

The video was recently released for “No One Wants it to Happen to You” and ties in flawlessly with the theme of the record. Director, William Colby, says about the video, “With the video, I wanted to explore our complex relationship with water: We are in awe of it, we need it to live, yet it can kill us and destroy our homes. Through juxtaposing and blending water footage with an intimate performance, I attempted to tie this idea into the main themes of the band’s album.”

I don’t even know where to start with “Boys Life.” This track sticks out so starkly to me on this record both sonically and personally. For me, this is the most concrete song on the album. The rest of the songs float in a digital world that is a little more difficult to grip, they don’t get stuck in my head. The verses, the chorus, the bridge, it all gets stuck there. A beautiful and fleeting music video accompanies this song as well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8bswaJma_M

“Big Ideas Pt. 2” begins a bit off kilter and every time the chorus comes back, that off kilter sound and feeling returns while Josh Kolenik sings:

Love is a choice,

Love is no answer.

The slightly dissonant chorus works in uniquely with the verses which are smooth and sleek. As the song builds and continues, the dissonance and sleekness meet, giving the track closure and leaving your ears at peace. The evolution within the track is fascinating.

The track “XX Century” closes the record. It’s almost as if you can see the credits rolling as this track plays. It really wraps up the record as a whole, holding all of the elements that make Best Blues.  Vocals resonating in the distance and wave-like percussion roll over the listener.

In all, I dig this record big time. It is out now on Jagjaguwar. Catch Small Black runnin’ around and playin’ shows this fall.

Sun. Oct. 18 – San Antonio, TX @ 502 Bar *
Tue. Oct. 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar *
Wed. Oct. 21 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah *
Fri. Oct. 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre *
Sat. Oct. 24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent *
Mon. Oct. 26 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
Tue. Oct. 27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret *
Wed. Oct. 28 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile – Back Bar *
Thu. Oct. 29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux *
Fri. Oct. 30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge *
Sat. Oct. 31 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
Mon. Nov. 2 – Kansas City, MO @ The Tank Room *
Tue. Nov. 3 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill *
Wed. Nov. 4 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
Fri. Nov. 6 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall *
Sat. Nov. 7 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory *
Sun. Nov. 8 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison *
Tue. Nov. 10 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa *
Wed. Nov. 11 – Burlington, VT @ Signal Kitchen *
Thu. Nov. 12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
Fri. Nov. 20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right *
Sat. Nov. 21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right *

* w/ Painted Palms

Album stream: Small Black’s new record, “Best Blues”

Today and until album release, you can stream Small Black’s long awaited full length, Best Blues. If you’ve been following MFL this summer, you too have been strung along as Small Black released a single about once a month. The wait is over and you can now enjoy the record in its entirety on NPR’s First Listen.

Best Blues will be out on Jagjaguwar on October 16th.

http://www.npr.org/2015/10/07/445022651/first-listen-small-black-best-blues

Music video from Small Black for their track, “Boys Life”

The newly released music video for Small Black’s single, “Boys Life” is a peek into the mind of a young woman, sorting through the memories of lovers and friends past and present. Each memory has a specific date and time, among other details. The emotions are left for you to read on the characters’ faces. The main female character, carries a camera around with her, capturing many of these moments while the chorus sings, “Pictures of you.” One of my favorite details of this video is that the last scene has no expiration date, it will never be dated. The screen says, “This morning 8:59 am.” It leaves it up to the viewer to decide when.

About the music video and the director, Nick Bentgen, lead singer Josh Kolenik says:

“He functions almost as a fifth band member, assigning images to the sounds that come out of our heads, populating them with sprawling casts and endless locales, yet never missing the quiet moment.  With ‘Boys Life,’ he’s getting at a simple reflection on being young, and the many identities we all try out on our paths to figuring out how we might be. Falling through the city on the way to our lives.”

Best Blues comes out on Jagjaguwar on October 16th and you can catch Small Black on their fall tour, starting October 11th:

Sun. Oct. 11 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter *
Tue. Oct. 13 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl *
Wed. Oct. 14 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa *
Fri. Oct. 16 – Austin, TX @ Red 7 *
Sat. Oct. 17 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada *
Sun. Oct. 18 – San Antonio, TX @ 502 Bar *
Tue. Oct. 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar *
Wed. Oct. 21 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Fri. Oct. 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
Sat. Oct. 24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Mon. Oct. 26 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
Tue. Oct. 27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret *
Wed. Oct. 28 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile – Back Bar *
Thu. Oct. 29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux *
Fri. Oct. 30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge *
Sat. Oct. 31 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
Mon. Nov. 2 – Kansas City, MO @ The Tank Room *
Tue. Nov. 3 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill *
Wed. Nov. 4 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
Fri. Nov. 6 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall *
Sat. Nov. 7 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory *
Sun. Nov. 8 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison *
Tue. Nov. 10 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa *
Wed. Nov. 11 – Burlington, TV @ Signal Kitchen *
Thu. Nov. 12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
Sat. Nov. 21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right *

* w/ Painted Palms

Another single from Small Black: “Back at Belle’s”

After releasing two positively succulent singles, Small Black has released the third single off of their sentiment-inspired upcoming record, Best Blues. The newest single, “Back at Belle’s” has a subtlety to it that almost resembles that music people like to call “shoegaze.” Droning synths and shuffling percussion persists throughout the track, making it a remarkably easy listen:

We can only hope Small Black will continue to gently lure us into their upcoming record by dropping singles until it’s release date, October 16th.

“No One Wants It To Happen To You” – Small Black

This dissonant, dreamy, track is off of Small Black’s upcoming LP, Best Blues, which will be out on October 6th.Their previous single, “Boys Life”, was the perfect snap shot of what Best Blues is about: memories and sentiment, a collection of stories inspired by old, water-warped photographs. According to lead singer Josh Kolenik, “No One Wants It To Happen To You” is about something an older, perhaps wiser friend told you. Something you should remember when times are difficult, that will remind you to push forward. Josh says, ““Simple and plain spoken, it’s about separating yourself from yourself and taking a second to stand and gape at the bottom, knowing that you might be there for awhile, but that it is a place from which you can rise.”

Stay tuned for more from Small Black until their full release.

Exciting news from Brooklyn-based boys, Small Black!

Small Black is Josh Kolenik, Ryan Heyner, Juan Pieczanski, and Jeff Curtin. They recently announced the release of their third full length record, titled Best Blues. It’s due out October 16th of this year on Jagjaguwar and includes collaborations with Nicholas Vernhes who works with The War on Drugs and Deerhunter, Darbi Cicci of The Antlers on trumpet, and Kaede Forde with additional vocals. Best Blues is a record telling stories of loss both of persons and memories, partially inspired by times singer Kolenik spent sifting through water damaged photos at his family’s home in Long Island that was flooded during Hurrican Sandy. In fact, the album cover is one of these very photos. The first single was released today, “Boys Life.” Listen below:

Small Black’s fall tour starts October 11th in Richmond, VA but you can catch them many places after:

Sun. Oct. 11 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter *
Tue. Oct. 13 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl *
Wed. Oct. 14 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa *
Fri. Oct. 16 – Austin, TX @ Red 7 *
Sat. Oct. 17 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada *
Tue. Oct. 20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar *
Wed. Oct. 21 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Fri. Oct. 23 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
Sat. Oct. 24 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
Mon. Oct. 26 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge *
Tue. Oct. 27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret *
Wed. Oct. 28 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile – Back Bar *
Thu. Oct. 29 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux *
Fri. Oct. 30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge *
Sat. Oct. 31 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge *
Mon. Nov. 2 – Kansas City, MO @ The Tank Room *
Tue. Nov. 3 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill *
Wed. Nov. 4 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry *
Fri. Nov. 6 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall *
Sat. Nov. 7 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory *
Sun. Nov. 8 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison *
Tue. Nov. 10 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa *
Wed. Nov. 11 – Burlington, TV @ Signal Kitchen *
Thu. Nov. 12 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall *
Sat. Nov. 21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right *

* w/ Painted Palms

Cheers to 2014

This week’s playlist was inspired by artists new and old that I heard about via Hype Machine, Dead Oceans record label, and Jagjaguwar record label reviews of 2014. These are some of my favorites.

I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO SEE WHAT 2015 brings!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!