Review Summary: The Strokes, Los Hermanos and ...some cute girl3 of 4 thought this review was well written
Named after a cocktail lounge not far from their house in Echo Park, new kids on the block Little Joy can’t really be seen as new kids at all, considering the three piece consist of Fabrizio Moretti, Rodrigo Amarante and Binki Shapiro. For those who need clarification, this would be the drummer of New York band The Strokes, the singer of Brazilian indie stalwarts Los Hermanos and, oh yeah, the formers current girlfriend respectively. So how did this project come into being? Well, the story goes that Amarante and Moretti both met at a Lisbon festival in 2006, where both their bands were playing, and at some point the idea was thrown out there that they should start a new musical project unrelated to their respective bands. The next year, with Los Hermanos on indefinite hiatus, Amarante travelled to Los Angeles where he once again met Moretti, the two inadvertently meeting Binki through ‘mutual acquaintances’; whom soon got them working on a few songs Moretti had been writing. Fast forward to 4th November 2008 and the threesome had released their debut self-titled on alternative rock label Rough Trade.
Now how does the record actually sound? You may be expecting The Strokes melodic pop-influenced garage rock, and of course there are
influences here and there but Little Joy
is definitely its own separate sound. Neither is this a trip down Los Hermanos soft and laid back mix of indie rock with Brazilian rhythms, however the influence is again most certainly there. Instead, this is an album that subtly breaches a wide array of styles whilst always remaining one foot firm in a calm and relaxing alternative rock sound suited perfectly to …a cocktail lounge (or possibly for soothing a beastly hangover). Seriously, this is an album that you can float to
; it has that dreamy quality as its textured music washes over you in waves of pleasant and lazy guitar work and small but invariably noticeable odd instrumental jams. All of this is supported by smooth vocal work, suited perfectly to the chilled small almost jams partially enshrouding it.
Main vocal duties are handled by Amarante, his emotionally driven soft croon, sometimes in English, sometimes in Portuguese, fitting for the charming soundtrack that comes with it. Binki chips in as well, most notably on ‘Don’t Watch Me Dancing’, where her delicate singing really sends chills down the spine. The two also both bring plenty to the table instrumentally, including the glockenspiel, ukulele and melotron amongst other slightly more obscure and overly global pieces. Moretti’s job description includes drums, guitar, piano, bass and melodica. Between the three of them, Little Joy manage to create a varied bunch of indie tunes and throw them all together in a charming little album that can’t fail to warm the listeners heart.
‘Don’t Watch Me Dancing’ is the stand out song on the album, Binki’s voice sends chills down the spine as her beautiful vocals mingle with the lullaby-ish music. She also lends her talents on the reggae like “The Next Time Around” - a lazy march in three-part harmony, whilst ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ drifts along. ‘Evaporar’ goes by with nothing more than picked guitar and nearly whispered Portuguese vocals.
Lets put a few things straight, this record has low aspirations; it’s a simple album that sounds like it was recorded in an old garage on a warm sunny day and free of any concept. And, as noted before, the instrumental work on the album, although incredibly varied, comes across lazy. I don’t mean that in a critical way though. Oh no! This is all just part of the charm. Off beat drumming, picked guitars, Strokes influenced chord work, organ, soft whispered lyrics …this is an album brimming with personality, a perfect antidote for the cold winter it has been released in sync with. Of course, some listeners may find 11 dreamy rock songs less charming and more dull. Not to mention some riffs may be quaintly recycled. Despite some small nagging flaws, this is most definitely an album worth picking up. I mean, it isn’t an album meant to change the world or really make you think. It’s purely simple and chilled fun.
"Mama you're gonna be so proud of me, when you see me hanging in a New York gallery
" - 'With Strangers'