Small Time Giants


Written by: TL on 16/12/2014 17:36:32

Greenland, the ironically named, giant icecube which is the world's largest island and simultaneously its least densely populated country, is an often overlooked elephant in the corner of the otherwise tiny Danish kingdom. It's almost a surprise then, to find that there are bands there, and even more so to find that the biggest one, Small Time Giants - who still are no bigger than to have crowd-funded their debut album - sound nothing like an amateur outfit from some out-of-touch backwater. Instead, it's a delightful, positive surprise to put on said album, "Stethoscope", and discover that this young quartet from Qaqortoq (Julianehåb) have a more promising wide-screen format to their sound than many bands back in Denmark itself.

Their sound is a soft, airy indie rock, which carries heartbreaks, artistic insecurities and feelings of being grossly underestimated on its sleeve. A song like "Undiscovered Potential" reveals likely inspiration from Thirty Seconds To Mars, courtesy of the dark, ominous piano notes and the ambiance of Søren Balsner's production, while frontman Miki Jensen's nasal vocals tremble with unrestricted emotion, sort of how Brian Molko's did on older Placebo songs. Along with the rousing "No Excuses Just Explanation", the song displays that there's a bit of muscle on Small Time Giants, and though they do not flex it often on "Stethoscope", it marks some of the more promising moments when they do.

The clear highlight of the album though, is obviously the leading single "Heart Beats Broken Heart". Here a laid back and deceptively catchy bass line lends perfect contrast to the kind of super-sentimental and anthemic vocal melodies that sound silly if you imagine them anywhere but amidst a sea of lighters and lit cellphone displays, and while the ringing guitars and mid-paced drums of the chorus are the same type of poppy stuff, that talent show winners have their inevitable failures brewed on, there's enough charisma and conviction in Small Time Giants' delivery to carry the day and swiftly chisel the song into your memory. Meanwhile, "Black Box" deserves a mention as well, courtesy of an efficient, echoing minimalism, where Jensen's vocals again mimic the frailty of Placebo's better ballads.

As a production, "Stethoscope" is an impressive first effort, as Balsner brings the experience from his own, similar sounding band Carpark North to bear, and while some might choke on the cornyness of how phrases like "hearts" and "beats" are used frequently in the lyrics of even a good song such as "Eyes/Hands/Mouth", you could excuse it as being conceptual on an album which is called "Stethoscope" and has a track called "CPR" for an intro. Of further concern, the songwriting methods do get a bit too simple in some places, as the simple repetition of a refrain at a higher pitch isn't always enough to top off the otherwise consistently promising arrangements, and you get the sense that the band would do well to develop some more striking instrumental ideas.

However, as the loveable type of album that clearly wants to prove doubters wrong, "Stethoscope" is overall a pleasant, catchy and promising product. The struggle the band frames via a couple of sampled monologues isn't quite won with this single blow though, as roughly half the tracks have a similar feeling as many Snow Patrol songs, in the sense that the climax doesn't gratify the build-up. As for the other half though, they carry the contagious feeling that Small Time Giants have the blueprints to build through the Danish scene's glass ceiling, if they stay stubborn and make the right decisions. For starters, some wilder ideas to contrast their efficient minimalism would not go amiss - Not that such are missing glaringly in Balsner's expert production, but it would still only benefit from carefully applied injections of extra energy and diversity.

Download: Heart Beats Broken Heart, Black Box, No Excuses Just Explanations, Eyes/Hands/Mouth
For The Fans Of: Placebo, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Snow Patrol, Carpark North

Release date 14.11.2014

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