A high quality yet lo-fi indie Americana album that’s sure to charm any fan of the subsection of the genre.
The release of Northern Irish band Smallmint’s debut album has been some time in the making. The LP was first conceived way back in 2017 when the foundations for it were first laid at the – fittingly titled – Smalltown America Studios in the slightly more unexpected Derry. “We wanted the album to feel natural and to actually sound like a band playing live in a room, which is exactly how it was recorded,” frontman Andrew Cameron-Braithwaite said of the time spent in the studio, and that’s an ethos that really does shine through in all its jangly, indie Americana glory.
“Here lie the remains / The time we wasted / Trying to find the amity misplaced / Had decent nights if I’m not mistaken / Only to find calamity replaced them,” laments Cameron-Braitwaite on ‘Amity’; it’s the album opener with an intro that features one very pious sounding organ before moving to a steady background guitar rift. ‘Synonym’ at just one minute 28 seconds long is a short, sharp blast of 90s indie power-pop. “Every version of the life that I could have had / Cascades through my head / And I’m worse than I was in the first place / Yeah I’m a bad person,” Cameron-Braitwaite informs us with a bone dry drollness.
‘The Radiator’, a snapshot into an aimless moment that turns into hopelessness, is a cleverly written reminder not to lose hope even when it all feels like too much (“When you’re feeling like you’re done / Just remember you are not alone”). The vocals, at times strained, really do imbue a sense of desperation for change, even when that change feels out of reach. “Will this ever be enough for me / To make the final call / Or will my inner monologue / Always be frustration,” come the words on ‘The Swall’, the music swelling dramatically and guitars crashing as frustration builds.
“You left me feeling devoid / Of emotion when you left a void / I’ll get overly annoyed / At circumstances beyond my control,” Cameron-Braitwaite sings on the ‘Devoid’, a brief but impactful noisy statement of a track that couldn’t be further from what its title suggests. ‘The Hallway’ is gentle, folkish and sparsely arranged in a way that works well with the otherworldliness of the lyrical content that grapples with death, while ‘The Dark’ is a rock stomper with a strong baseline that’s instilled with the frustration of the lyrics: “I’ve been trying so damn hard for this / That I lost sight of what matters most / You’ve been waiting in the dark for me / While i have cheated and done you wrong.”
“It was important for us to keep that space and energy in the recordings — no need for overproduction or too many overdubs, so that the arrangement of the music and the emotion within the lyrics could speak for themselves,” Cameron-Braitwaite said of the recording – and speak for themselves these songs do, standing strong with no need for fancy production tricks. The album may have taken five years to come to fruition, but if you’re a fan of Americana with a heavy side of indie-pop, you’ll probably agree it was worth the wait.