Small Sins | Mood Swings (Astralwerks)

cd_smallsins.jpgIn the lyrics, the music and the fresh, energized arrangements here, there’s a definite joie de vivre at work; you can clearly tell D’Arcy enjoys doing this pop music thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s interesting how many albums that you’d think are group efforts based on the name and presentation, are actually the work of one singularly talented individual. I’m not sure why Thomas D’Arcy, who has now released his second Small Sins disc, Mood Swings, chose not to simply promote his music under his own name, but since he’s got the venerable Astralwerks label behind him, I guess it doesn’t matter.

D’Arcy wrote or co-wrote almost everything on this new album, and he produced it as well. And despite significant musical contributions from multi-instrumentalist Steve Krecklo and keyboardist/arranger Todor Kobakov, a perusal of the credits quickly establishes that this is D’Arcy’s baby. And it’s a healthy, vigorous little baby, too. What you notice most in Small Sins’ music is the lively combination of buzzing, blooping synth lines (always prime for foot tapping) and the generally high-pitched, sometimes falsetto vocals.

D’Arcy has that quality, however you want to characterize it, of engaging the listener with his voice (which is appealingly quirky at times), and he achieves a cool, blended vocal sound on tracks like "I Need a Friend" and "What Your Baby’s Been Doing" that’s quite intoxicating. "On the Run" is simply a fantastic song, showcasing two vocals an octave apart, an irresistible rhythm track and some sharp-edged electric guitar work that’s worthy of Robert Fripp. And the dramatic background vocals in the vaguely ominous "On a Mission" certainly grab your attention.

Also enormously ear-friendly are "Airport," with its low-pitched spurting synth and plaintive vocal; the thumping bass and ’80s-retro hookiness of "Holiday" and the brisk, boppin’ arrangement of signature tune "We Will Break Our Own Hearts." Sample lyric: "We’ve built these wooden miracles/ With bad materials and bluffs, bad bluffs/ And we will break our own hearts/ Before the other starts." D’Arcy sings those last two lines (which comprise the album’s most infectious chorus) repeatedly, and I’ve no idea what he’s on about, but the important thing is, you feel he’s on about something.

In the lyrics, the music and the fresh, energized arrangements here, there’s a definite joie de vivre at work; you can clearly tell D’Arcy enjoys doing this pop music thing, and his style neatly straddles both modern synth-driven indie rock and the quirkier side of ’80s new wave. With the glut of casually similar releases vying for attention these days, it’s far too easy for a band like Small Sins to slip below the radar. But even if this isn’t groundbreaking stuff, it’s got enough hooks and musical bite to deserve a bigger following. B+ | Kevin Renick

RIYL: New Order, Modern English, Love and Rockets

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