Review Summary: An EPs worth of good material spread out over a full-length disc.
Normally, bands tend to capitalize on their momentum as fast as they can. Smallpools’ lead single, “Dreaming”, was released on May 16, 2013. Their debut album, LOVETAP!
, hit the shelves on March 24, 2015. The difference between the two dates is nearly two years – twenty-two months, to be more specific. Such a large gap would have been more excusable if “Dreaming” was still widely remembered today, but it barely had any longevity and wasn’t even close to being one of the bigger indie pop songs of the last few years. The only releases in between included a quick four-track EP and a one-off buzz single, hardly enough to keep the buzz going. However, buzz has no effect on quality, and Smallpools delivered exactly as expected on their debut.
The problem with their previous releases was that at times they could be catchy and enjoyable, but at other points they were too plain and couldn’t put their energy to good use. Their music is often bright and bubbly, which adds a bit of a life but also gets repetitive towards the end. Smallpools’ greatest strength is their ability to write simple, catchy hooks, evidenced on not only “Dreaming”, but also second single “Karaoke” and the title track. The former’s chorus of “take me out and we’ll karaoke, tonight we’ll feel famous, won’t we"” is complemented by great verses, slick production and nice use of guitar, and quickly establishes itself as a highlight. “Dyin’ to Live” relishes in its infectiousness, with Mark Foster-esque vocals and excellent keyboard parts. Cheery melodies buoy LOVETAP!
, and they give the album a breezy, feel-good vibe that is often found in most indie pop records. It’s a fun listen, albeit nothing special.
suffers from a lack of engaging new material. The album’s best songs have already been out prior to the album’s release, whether it’s the two-year old “Dreaming” or the four-month old “Karaoke”. There are only two new songs within the first eight tracks, and that’s easily the record’s best stretch. Faltering quite a bit towards the end, “What’s That a Picture Of"”, “Admission to Your Party” and “9 to 5” offer nothing of quality and just take up space until the mostly-instrumental closing track, “(Submarine)”. The lush atmosphere and production gives it an ethereal mood that builds for three minutes before suddenly fading. It’s an ambitious end to a band who pride themselves on writing quick, easy indie pop songs, even if it may not forecast much for the future.
Before the release of LOVETAP!
, Smallpools were just a run-of-the-mill indie pop band that could write a few catchy songs but didn’t seem like they’d be able to fill an album’s worth of quality material. Now that the record is out, it is safe to say that there has been no change of opinion. Relying too much on previously recorded tracks, a lack of variation and a weak second half bump this down a few notches, although when it’s good, it’s pretty damn good. “Dreaming”, “Karaoke” and “Dyin’ to Live” among others shine with their fun attitudes, breezy vibe and infectious hooks. If only they had more consistency, an album of Smallpools might not be all that bad, but until then, sticking to individual songs may be the best option. LOVETAP!
is essentially the deluxe edition of the Smallpools
EP, repackaged with a bunch of bonus tracks that can easily be disregarded.