3 Jul 2016
Songer is the second album from Chicago’s Small Awesome, but my first exposure to the band. I’ll admit to briefly contending with a strong, specific, and mostly-negative first impression. As a minimal two-piece, consisting almost entirely of vocals and strings, their sparse delivery and lack of percussion seemed–for a brief and terrifying moment–to reek of some open mic night. You know the kind; a lot of creative hats and guys with creative facial hair telling girls about the color of their energy.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long at all, before it was obvious there’s way more to this than any objectionable first impression. There’s a slow and steady hand behind everything Small Awesome does,to go with surprising and clever depth. They shine light from every angle on a sparse, obtuse take on melodic folk music.
“Sold You Out” sets the tone as well as any song here, though it’s also Small Awesome at their loudest and most direct. Winding guitar and bass parts back a nonchalant vocal delivery, which coyly hides effective and confident execution on all fronts. The ease which which they pull it off, and the lack of percussion tend to make it feel like a rough sketch at first glance. On the other end of the spectrum, “Worship” is abstract, but not for the purpose of interlude or space-filler. It meanders along, highly conceptual but also surprisingly direct, and might be Small Awesome at their overall best.
Throughout Songer the needle is buried all the way toward the correct end of the endearing:cute ratio. The LP unfolds like a slow, grimy exposition to some long lost early Ween record. But surprisingly confident and complete presentation of seemingly-scattered ideas makes for an unlikely wire-to-wire winner.
“Sold You Out” from: Songer // Sickroom Records
— S. ANDERSON