Swedish folk-rock trio Small Feet are the brain child of Simon Stålhamre. Along with drummer Christopher Cantillo and bassist Jacob Snavely, songwriter Stålhamre blends folk-inspired melodies and hauntingly sparse textures, which, combined with clever lyric writing create a distinctly melancholic, yet hopeful sound. This sound is typified in their debut album, released on 14th August, From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean. The LP is characterised by Stålhamre’s wavering, emotive vocals, set against a backdrop of gentle, picked guitar parts and some delicate harmonies.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean is certainly a grower. Its single-paced nature can become tiresome upon first listen, and it sometimes feels as though you are wading through a musical sludge of electronic dissonance. Towards the middle of the album the songs are dripping in reverb, which can often distract from the melodies and Stålhamre’s excellent lyricism. When the reverb is used sparingly, it works very well, and it feels as though you are actually in the tiny, 18th century island cabin in Stockholm that this album was recorded in, and thankfully this is true of the majority of the album. Stålhamre’s vocals seem out of place at first, almost grating, but by the final track it’s hard to imagine any other voice picking its way through the melody, and, though it is fairly slow-paced throughout, there is enough melodic and instrumental intrigue that it never becomes boring or overbearing.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean is an album the rewards you for truly listening to it, rather than letting its surreal sound wash over you. Stålhamre’s lyric writing ranges from the surreal (“While death bounced shadows off the walls/the ghosts downstairs/I had to befriend them all”) to the beautifully simple (“Dear dear diary today I was sad/and the day before, and the day before, and the day before that”), and though there is many a complex, ocean-inspired metaphor in there, he never goes too far. The melodies intertwine beautifully with the simple chordal guitar parts, especially in the most folk-inspired track on the album, ‘Lead Us Through The Night’. Small Feet’s folk-influences are clear; the vocals are particularly reminiscent of early Neil Young, and a few tracks (‘Lead Us Through The Night’ and ‘Dagmar’), have a real Fleet Foxes-esque quality to them.
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The first tack on the album, ‘Gold’, is a strong opener, showcasing the band’s particular strengths in instrumental writing. ‘Gold’ is driven by a strummed guitar part that lends it just a bit more energy and power than some of the other tracks. The following tracks are the strongest section of the album, featuring Small Feet’s two prior-released singles ‘Rivers’ and ‘All & Everyone’. ‘All & Everyone’ and ‘Lead Us Through The Night’ depart from the melancholic feel, offering a real sense of hope, thanks to a rather up-beat hook and hopeful lyrical themes. ‘Trenches’ is another stand-out track from the LP, emphasising Stålhamre’s lyric writing, with such lines as “Here in the trenches we’ll fall/Here in the trenches we’ll fall/beat me senseless/for I long to be touched”, set against a simple chordal arrangement for two guitars. After this the album loses its way a little.
However, the climax reinforces the albums credentials with the strongest track on the album ‘Dagmar’. Its fittingly discordant and heavily distorted guitar solo is at times mesmerising.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean is a strong debut album for Small Feet. It might not be easy listening the first time around, but additional time with the LP offers unexpected rewards. The guitar and vocals fit together beautifully on many of the tracks, and Stålhamre’s lyrics are a particular highlight. A melancholy yet hopeful sound, which has the possibility of translating very well into live performance, make for a truly immersive album.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean is out on the 14th August 2015 via Control Freak Kitten Records