The Small Cities claim inspiration from Low, Radiohead and DJ Shadow. This disparate bunch of reference points makes you wonder what they sound like on record and the answer is not much like any of those bands, really. It matters little, since this quartet from the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–Saint Paul) are a very good outfit on their own terms; blending guitar-heavy melodies with controlled bursts of breast-beating.
The first thing noticeable about The Small Cities is what expressive instruments the vocals of their two frontmen are. Strong enough to carry their own melody whilst expressing heartache and joy, Wes Burdine and David Osborn ensure even the slighter material on this record has a seal of quality. Fortunately, even though the first half is unquestionably stronger, slight material is thin on the ground.
‘Home Is Where The Start Is’ kicks up a stomping, passionate racket in the same manner as The Walkmen, the urgent ‘Sunday After Sunday’ possesses a ringing, swinging edge, whilst the stop-start rhythms of ‘Wise Blood’ offer welcome variation to the earnest American rock sound. Even though the mood is generally fist pumping rather than sombre, it is ‘Hospital’s sobering messages of a father’s loss (“lying there with needles in his arms”), clanging guitars and brushed percussion which creates arguably the most stunning moment on the album.
It’s testament to The Small Cities’ talents that even the most depressing source material sounds life-affirming and the album title proves to be happily prophetic. One hopes that The Small Cities will continue to perform in the large venues they deserve.
The Walkmen, The Stills, Longwave