So, we’re only three months into the year, and already several artists that were on my top choices list of last year are back with new releases. First it was Small Colin, and now it’s Spiedkiks. (I’d count Talk Less, Say More since I found England Without Rain last year, but excluded it from the end of year list since it was over a year old.)
I admittedly get worried when releases start showing up that I don’t expect. I get worried that they won’t live up to the expectations set by the previous release. I get worried that the artist(s) are rushing to get something out, trying to capitalize on the positive reception of their previous release. Overall, I get worried that the quality is going to suffer.
So how does Little Smartphone People stack up against Take Off Your Makeup?
Well, the quality of the release wasn’t rushed. According to the liner notes, it took the duo five months, and three studios to put together and master all the sixteen tracks on Little Smartphone People. And, I have to say, I am happy for the sixteen tracks on this release. I wasn’t too keen on the Kitchen Suite track on Take Off Your Makeup, primarily because I missed the fact that it was an homage to Paul’s Boutique. There isn’t a track like that on this release, and I think it turned out better because it allowed Spiedkiks to expand in a few directions that they didn’t with the Kitchen Suite.
For example ‘Selfie @ The Zoo’ has a middle-eastern feel to it that is fully realized, and showcases the duos ability to meld different musical styles into their well honed mix of big beats, funk and hip-hop. Had this track been relegated to another compilation mix like on the previous release, it would have been a shame. Thankfully this release doesn’t have that kind of a mix.
Another great thing on this release is the number of artists they were able to work with, but for instrumental tracks, and vocal tracks. While they collaborated with a few musicians on their previous release, Little Smartphone People has upped their collaborations to a whole new level. Nearly every track features a vocalist, as well as mixing turntable arts with analog or acoustic instruments (trombone, violin, moog synthesizer). Overall, this gives this release a much fuller, more completely realized feeling over Take Off Your Makeup.
Having said all this, it might seem hard that I wouldn’t find something to critique. Well, I do have a couple of things — but they are small niggles. Not anything that would seriously affect my recommendation for this release.
On first listen, a few of the tracks that feature the trombone prominently seem to have a really thick texture which becomes almost muddied sounding. On second and third listening this really doesn’t seem to be an issue. It was just something that stood out on the first listen, probably because I first noted it right at the beginning of the release when my ears are at their most critical. Then again, I could just be splitting hairs over what sounds too “thick” to me.
Speaking of hairs, or rather hares in this case: the lyrics on ‘Disco Bunny’ bothered me a bit. Primarily for the repetition of the word ‘funny’. This probably will bother no one else on this planet, but I just can’t help but think it would be possible to find other rhymes for funny. A few (soft) rhymes that come to mind: blondie, ghandi, bondi, glissandi. Yeah, they aren’t perfect, but ‘blondie’ or ‘ghandi’ could have made for a particularly funny (hah!) twist to the lyrics.
But aside from those really minor criticisms, this is a really excellent release. The detail in each track, the freshness of everything, the arrangements and mxing, everything is really quite well done. And, lots of credit should be given to the collaborators on this release. It’s obvious they put in their time working to make this recording as excellent as did Spiedkiks themselves.
So, this definitely gets a major recommendation from me. And, thankfully, so far this year I haven’t had a release from a previously reviewed artist disappointment.