The name Small Black
, to me, sounds daunting, cryptic, and almost demonic. The two monosyllabic words pushed together seem harsh and the images that I get invoke a genre that is heavy and grim. But, getting to know the band's work has proven just the opposite. There's something hilariously paradoxical: each song overflowing with whirling vibrance and 80s synth-pop influence. With so many bands reinventing the cheesy aspects of old dance music to fit into a more modernistic narrative, it's hard to stand out. But Small Black, with their songwriting abilities and sophisticated production tactics, have become a beautiful, infectious, and overall thrilling quartet that has accrued success throughout these past few years.
Small Black started as two members, Josh Kolenik and Ryan Heyner, cooking up their first EP in Josh's uncle's house. The Brooklyn band, soon after, started gaining attention from big indie record label Jagjaguwar and with that, Small Black took off in indie pop stardom. With their first release, The Small Black EP
, came some of the sexiest and danceable songs of 2009. "Despicable Dogs" pushes muddled vocals against thumping, rapid kick drums. Its subtle synth-leads add lethargy and languor to the bounciness of the rhythmic elements. Early Small Black easily emulates Youth Lagoon and Washed Out, other bedroom recording artists who were mocking their claustrophobia with stimulating and vivacious songs too large for residential walls.
Lately, Small Black has amped up their production quality and have teamed up with other chillwave artists such as Frankie Rose. On their collaboration for the song "Real People," Small Black has displayed the definition of clarity. Pulsating bass and bright synths dash in and out of Kolenik's breezy vocal style and Rose's melodramatic tone. The distortion of past engagements is no longer intrinsic to the band's sound; in the latest years of the band's existence, crispness has been the primary mission, putting Small Black officially on the board for irresistible synth-pop.
Small Black, along with Eternal Summers and Widowspeak, is playing at the Cutty Sark Brooklyn Bowl Showcase on June 30th. Cutty is giving away prize crates to five lucky winners which include a pair of tickets to the show, a Cutty t-shirt, a flask, and a shot glass. Enter the Cutty giveaway below.
Tickets for the showcase can be purchased here