FOUR TRACK BREAKDOWN:
Withershins by Smoosh
Usually when I hear about a band comprised of three young siblings, I am automatically thinking I am going to get an ear-full of some over produced, teeny-bopper garbage, and while this may hold true for bands of brothers (think Hanson, The Jonas Bros.), Smoosh, a group made up of sisters Asya (keyboards, lead vocals), Chole (Drums, backup vocals), and Maia (bass, backup vocals),Â has been steadily breaking down preconceived notions about what an adolescent band of kin is capable of. In fact, although Smoosh has all the prime fodder for some gimicky marketing angle (3 young, attractive sisters who have played with a number of the nations top alt/indie rock acts all before any of them were old enough to vote) all of that becomes irrelevant when you hear their music. It’s good. It’s damn good, and it’s been getting progressively better with each album. While their first two albums, She Like Electric and Free To Stay, are both very impressive, their latest release, Whitershins, shows off a musical maturity that is clearly on a new level compared to their earlier work.
The album’s first track is entitled “FinnerÃ¶dja”, which is the name of a small locality in Sweden. The track starts with a moody four note bass riff over an atmospheric synthesizer pad sound. The mellow, dreamy mood of the song further builds when the vocals start with a beautiful combination of call and response lines which move into lullaby-like 2 and 3 part harmonies. The emotional build of the song is brought to a head in the last quarter of the track, where a slightly more aggressive drum line and fuzzed out guitar part begins. Lyrically, the song is a combination of English and the sisters’ native Swedish, and has a tone much like many of the songs on the album, where the specifics of the song are a bit ambiguous, but invokes the feeling that it is about something both deeply personal and emotionally heavy.
Track two, entitled “We Are Our Own Lies” again, starts with a drawn out synth pad sound, but then quickly moves into a bouncing staccato piano line, which is a stylistic signature of Asya’s. As the vocals kick in, the music is filled out by what sounds like cello and violin, to give it a dense, dreamy feeling.Â One of the things I love about this track is that it showcases Smoosh’s unique writing style where rather than a rigid verse-chorus-bridge structure, the musical sections very organically morph from one to the other and back again with the emphasis on building emotional tension throughout the song, rather than focusing on building towards one particular hook.Â FYI, Asya’s new project, Daydream Vacation, with Dave Einmo from Head Like A Kite does a fantastic remix of this song.
The third track, entitled “Promises”,Â has a lot of the same dreamy, melancholy vibe as the previous track, but keeps from veering into some of the depressing territory that some indie/alt rock acts get into on occasion, thanks in part to Chloe’s incredible drum lines. Where a lot of players in the genre would be tempted to keep a lulling steady 1/8th note beat on a ride cymbal with a few minor snare fills here and there, Chole is able to come up with beautifully crafted, intense drum lines that always find and accentuate every build in the music. You can hear the level of musical communication that is going on, and you really get the sense that the sisters learned their crafts together. About midway through the song, the girls really showcase their range and go into a jazz-heavy breakdown, something which up to this point I don’t ever recall hearing on any Smoosh tracks.
Track four, “The Worlds Not Bad”, is not only my favorite Smoosh song, but one of the best songs I have ever heard. It really nails the re-occurring musical theme of the album of well timed building and release of emotional tension. The vibe of the song reminds me a lot of The Yea Yea Yeas’ tune “Skeletons” where the song begins with a soft, soothing vocal line and then draws you in as it ramps up and eventually builds to intensely impassioned peaks and then subsides. Asya’s initial vocal line is one of those lines where it seems the singer found the precisely correct group of notes to go on top of the chord progression and no other set of notes in any other rhythmic combination could serve the song as well. The line is punctuated by more of Chloe and Maia’s angelic harmonization, sometimes following specific words or phrases but sometimes just holding out vowel sounds which lends an almost Enya-esque feeling to the song. As the song moves forward, the girls use a combination of electronic drums and sampled noise to enhance the intensity of the builds which hit their summit and then fall back to an acoustic drum driven mellow groove.
If you’re a fan of emotionally driven alt rock bands such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Yea Yea Yea’s, or Tegan and Sarah, chances are you will love this album. Even in you’re on the fence about it, let me say that I personally can’t recommend this album enough. It is currently available FOR FREE through the Smoosh website. Smoosh currently is based out of Brooklyn, NY but you can catch Asya in the Pacific Northwest in her new project Daydream Vacation.