You might remember Smallpools by their successful debut single, Dreaming, out in 2013. It reached the #23 position on the prestigious Billboard’s Alternative Songs Chart and was even included in the FIFA 14 soundtrack. The single came right off their self-titled EP, whose 4 songs are all featured in their first full-length album, Lovetap!, along with a bunch of brand new tunes.
The Los Angeles-based four-piece indie pop band are not new to happy summertime anthems – and this LP is unsurprisingly full of optimistic, synth-laden catchy melodies. Recent single, Karaoke, starts with some handclapping and a 80s synth and continues with an addictive sing-along chorus. Killer Whales’s synths seem inspired by the iconic Van Halen’s Jump, while opener American Love reminds me of the bounciest Strokes, even though singer Sean Scanlon’s high-pitched vocals are very different from Julian Casablancas all-round timbre. Over and Over is another joyful and carefree tune, an invitation to seize the day, and contains the lyrics “I wanna live this night/ Over and over”. Street Fight is musically similar but has funnier lyrics – “Caught in a street fight, you need a lifeline, go ahead and use me, I’ll be your Bruce Lee.” Dying to Live and 9 to 5 are hymns to non-conformist lifestyle with an implicit invitation to enjoy life, the second asking why “all you really wanted was a nine-to-five to pay the bills on time”. The only stand out song is the very last one, Submarine, with its (welcomed) slower, ballad rhythm.
It seems that the American quartet have found the perfect recipe for good, danceable electro pop songs and they use it again and again. However, the recipe is not perfect – too many synths, the 80s wave has already passed – and even if it was perfect, having it repeated like a pattern wouldn’t help in appreciating the songs. After all this moving, jumping and shaking…what’s left? These guys cite Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Simon as some of their sources of inspiration but in their music there’s nothing of these musicians’ power of creating unforgettable tunes. Not yet ayway. I give Smallpools the benefit of the doubt though. For now, all this fun got me bored.