[RCA Records, 2015]
by Taylor Gilliam
A week ahead of its scheduled release, LOVETAP!, the debut album from L.A.-based Smallpools, appeared on Spotify, and social media posts from the band saying, “Surprise!” quickly started circulating.
LOVETAP! has been a couple years coming, with the band’s formation in 2013 and immediate success of first single “Dreaming.” The catchy chorus and driving-the-Pacific-Coast-Highway indie synth pop shot to the top of the charts in summer that same year, and it made Smallpools’ self-titled EP a solid foundation on which to form a fan base.
Since their live debut in July 2013, Smallpools—Sean Scanlon (vocals), Mike Kamerman (guitar), Beau Kunther (drums), and Joseph Intile (bass)—have been on the road opening for bands like Walk the Moon, Grouplove, and Neon Trees and finally co-headlining a tour with Sir Sly last year, all the while at work on an album they could be proud of.
LOVETAP! is the finished project of all the songs from the EP, singles released in the past few months to keep the hype up (“Killer Whales” and “Karaoke”), and new tracks that glimmer like the springtime sun.
The album is an exuberant expression of opportunism felt in both its sound and lyrics. “Dyin’ to Live” is perhaps the best embodiment of this, a self-explanatory track with lines like “I’m not afraid of being a lonely man or even dying, just missing out.” People aren’t just trying to get by; they’re trying to thrive. “Street Fight” is about wanting a chance to fight for a love interest, and “Over & Over” is about all the adventures that would comprise an unforgettable night and how great it would be if the relationship were given a chance.
In the same vein, “9 to 5” questions why “all you really wanted was a nine-to-five to pay the bills on time.” Why play it safe, run from risk, and miss out on so much? The band is so eager to experience everything they can, and that liveliness shines through on the whole album.
If you’ve seen Smallpools live, especially lately, you’ve likely heard a good portion of this album, but the studio versions offer complementary production effects (that, thankfully, don’t overpower or warp the songs) and provide a balance between vocal and instrumental that’s hard to achieve during a concert.
Dreamy “(Submarine)” closes the album—I’m not sure how I feel about it as a closer—and its ethereal vibe reminds the listener that, yes, LOVETAP! is the soundtrack of the most fun dance party you’ve been to in awhile, but the band has depth. Even better, its experimental feel is almost like a hint that there’s much more to come.
Let’s hope there is, because fish this big don’t belong in small pools forever.
- “Street Fight”
- “Over & Over”
- “Admission to Your Party”
- “Dyin’ to Live”