With a self-released, acclaimed album already under their belt, the Aberdonian quintet have made great strides since the release of Boxing Clever in 09; particularly in terms of arrangements, instrumentation and production value, with their new album trailblazing a new direction for the band, without losing any of their original character.
The self-titled second album The Little Kicks, adds lush arrangements and keen attention to detail; consisting of new elements like the warm sounds of the prevalent organ sounds– flirtations with brass and even the occasional Errors type blips & glitches, which are all welcomed into the melting point; and all aid their staple syncopated indie riffage, without loosing sight of what kept them special in the first place – killer melodies, harmonies and excellent pop phrasing– no matter what’s added into the mix, these still shine through, underpinning the heart of Steven Milnes and co. compositions.
Opening the album with what seems too be a curve-ball of an intro, an extended psychedelic come 60s spy theme-esque sound before ‘Anti Work Song’ true-colours emerge with an insistent but vibrant drum beat and bubbling bass flow underneath, backing the multi-layered vocals, cascading sequenced synths, which seem to come out of nowhere, reinforcing the chorus of “I don’t want to be the one, who spend their time getting nothing done – “When it comes to working-time; it kills me, kills me, kills, me – Dead” a self-evident lament of the nagging feeling that time spent working saps you of your creative and personal life.
‘Loosen Up’ makes great use of restrained syth drones, morphing into distorted electro riffage and funky bass and guitar with the dynamic and diverse percussion helping to underpin the shifting dynamics in the song, as Steven croons longing lyrics about relationship strife, which weaves amongst the twists and turns of sonic textures on offer.
‘First Place’ is the most plaintive and soulfully delivered songs on the album “As we go back to the first place, where the four of us ran to the pace of my frustrations…”- “I want to feel alive again, I need to be, alive again’, which is helped in no small way by the phenomenal brass arrangements, minimal electric-piano and guitar textures. It proves to be one of the album’s gems and seems to delineate a touching introspective look at bands relationship.
‘Call of Youth’ has the stomp, hooks and some cracking riffs that make it the most immediate of songs on the album, not to mention catchy lines such as “You think the Kinks are over rated and you’re not a fan of Bowie, and all this time your getting back to telling your life-story” it’s all really well paced number but with another twist as the outro takes hold with a heavy atmospheric hue, with strings, persevering piano and drums reinforcing the haunting reverb soaked group harmonies that bring it to a close.
Album closer ‘Far Too Honest’ is perhaps my stand-out track, with a drawn-out atmospheric organ setting the tone, sitting alongside sincere lyrical delivery ”…and you never want to listen, to anything I would say, but all I have, is what’s keeping you
round” – “and I love you more than you think; I’m far too honest” – the arpeggiated sixties style guitars and Latin inflected percussion give it a unique sound, while once again the understated but nicely blended bass holds all the disparate elements together without any flashy showings needed. ‘Far Too Honest’ provides a fitting finale for an album that has pushed the bands boundaries of experimentation.
If I have any reservation, it’s for all its sheen and expert arrangements, at times it lacks a lack a vital spark and zip; it feels like it’s arrangements and production are sometimes too clinical – losing an element where you feel they could have harnessed a more raw energy and kicked into a further gear – but that’s not to detract from the abundant quality’s that pervade the album: strong candid song-writing and lyrical delivery – impeccable melodies & harmony – not mention the twists and turns of juxtaposed styles and moods that blend together in every song – keeping things fresh, intriguing and interesting.
The Little Kicks is an accomplished and bold step forward from the band, and definitely heralds an intent to make their indelible mark on the fertile indie-rock scene that thrives throughout Scotland and beyond.