Written by Erin Mathis
Four-piece indie pop band Smallpools got a small taste of success soon after they formed in 2013 with their release of “Dreaming”, which reached the #1 position on internet music blog The Hype Machine, and even #23 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. That summer, their self-titled EP dropped and delivered three new songs: “Mason Jar,” “Over & Over,” and “No Story Time.” Fans were delighted to know that Smallpools were not just a one-hit-wonder act, but that the band had serious talent and staying power.
Now, their highly anticipated full length album LOVETAP! has been let out of the gates a week early on Spotify, and fans are finally getting to hear more of their new favorite band.
First, many are wondering about the source of the album name and cover photo. In a recent video released on Spotify’s The Drop, the band revealed that during a performance of a song that did not yet have lyrics, lead singer Sean Scanlon decided to freestyle a bit, randomly singing the word “love-tap.” The band thought it to be a really cool word, and made it the name of the song, as well as the title of their album. Also, the cover photo is actually a photo of their producer, Ryan [McMahon], as a child, giving his younger brother a “love-tap” with a tennis ball.
The album itself includes all four songs from their EP. First up is “Dreaming”, inarguably their most popular song, with its music video climbing up to nearly five million views on YouTube. Next, “Mason Jar” is a song almost made for live performances. It has plenty of ‘oh’s’ for the audience to sing along to, and a drum beat that’s perfect for a room full of overhead clapping. “Over & Over” is a summertime fun song with an extremely catchy hook: “I wanna call you mine, and never let you down / I wanna feel it’s right, over and over.” “No Story Time”, the second to last song on the album, is notable for its uplifting build near the end of the song, which layers loud, faster lyrics “don’t you leave me alone, don’t you let go” on top of slow, softer lyrics “no story time.”
Smallpools also released two singles in 2014, both of which are included on the album. “Killer Whales” has a definite ’80s feel with its electronic synth sound, while “Karaoke” is more toned down and mellow. Also, the band put out two different music videos for “Karaoke”, one called “Karaoke (‘80s Beach Day)”, with 80s-quality footage and hilarious throwback outfits to match, while “Karaoke (‘70s Bootleg)” includes store mannequins dressed in 1970s apparel.
The album included all of these songs plus eight new ones, and while most of the new tracks were great, there were a few that leave the listener unimpressed. The song “Lovetap!,” maybe because it is the album title, already has high expectations—expectations which it fails to meet. It’s a bit boring, with a steady beat and an extremely long fade out. Next, “What’s That A Picture Of?” though notable for its unique mysterious vibe, gets pretty repetitive and annoying by the twelfth repetition of “What’s that a picture of?” Finally, “Admission To Your Party”, though it fits nicely in the album, almost fits too nicely. As a whole it comes off as bland and formulaic, and its lyrics: “I want admission to your party, it’s the best in town,” are a bit suggestive and off-putting.
Now to mention the standouts of the album—and there are a lot of them. The album opener, “American Love”, begins soft and serene before jumping into a faster tempo with claps and exciting bass line. This song also features some lovely electric guitar pickings which remind the listener a bit of Two Door Cinema Club. “Street Fight” is lovable not necessarily for its instrumentals (which come together to create essentially, stock music), but for its lyrics, which are quirky and adorable: “Caught in a street fight / You need a life line / Just like the movies / I’ll be your Bruce Lee.”
“Dyin’ to Live” is a song that listeners will immediately connect to. Its heartfelt lyrics speak about a universal desire; the desire to find purpose and stability in one’s life. Meanwhile, “9 to 5” deserves praise for its ability to delightfully surprise the listener with latin influenced sounds and a super-fast and silly chorus. Finally, the last track on the album, “(Submarine)”, which quite possibly is enclosed in parenthesis in an attempt to resemble a submarine, is unlike any of the other songs. It is smooth and relaxed like a calm ocean, and the vocals sound distant and echoed. It includes a relaxing and uplifting fade out which is a perfect end to this positivity-packed album.
With their fire-starting EP, and their equally impressive first album, Smallpools is a band to keep an eye out for. It might not be long before their uptempo beats and catchy hooks break out into the mainstream and gain them some much deserved success.