Small Time Giants

support Nanook
author TL date 09/05/15 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Last year discovered that shockingly, there are rock bands even in Greenland, when Small Time Giants started to get noticed in connection with the release of their debut album "Stethoscope". It only seemed right to see them at the first given opportunity, which turned out to be tonight at the event that translates to "The tip of Greenlandic rock". The band is playing alongside the more accomplished Nanook, a group that has three albums out sung entirely in Greenlandic, and while Nanook for some reason happens to play first, they're headliners on the poster and it's clearly them that the majority of the audience have come to see. Unsurprisingly, most are also of Greenlandic heritage and hanging out at Loppen before the bands, as a Danish person, feels a bit like being a tourist at someone else's cultural gathering. But then some would say music is universal, so with that in mind, let's get things started with a review of Nanook by someone who has no idea what they sing about.


Not understanding a word that's being sung, watching Nanook feels a bit like watching J-rock, and then again it doesn't at all. Because where J-rock bands are usually hypermodern and all over the map stylistically, Nanook play a more conventional blend of indie, pop and folk - like a laid-back crossing of the frosty pop songs of Kent or Escobar and the more acoustic and folksy styles of Of Monsters And Men or Mumford And Sons. The band is fronted by the brothers Christian and Frederik Elsner, both on vocals and guitar, and to their aid they have bass, drums and various keyboards employed by the rest of the band. It's curious to hear singing in Greenlandic, because the language often uses a slurring, lisping sound, and Frederik Elsner, in particular, takes his voice comfortably around his register, often gliding over to an affected falsetto.

To the band's credit, the set is tight with the minor exception that one of the keyboards is a bit too loud in the mix. On the odd songs where Christian takes the lead vocals, it's also clear that his singing is somewhat less melodious than his brother's. Other than that though, the band plays on confidently to great reception from an audience in high spirits, and on a couple of occasions the brothers also step down in front of the monitors to play their delicate guitar melodies more up close to the crowd. That being said, you get the feeling that this is a band where the lyrics are central, and while the songs are varied in tone and tempo, their style remains a pretty easygoing and ordinary pop-rock. That the band's set lasts well over an hour then, feels a good deal too long, at least if you don't speak Greenlandic. Yet the audience at least seems to take this casually, popping back and forth to the bar for extra supplies, and later on Small Time Giants are even brought on to help out on a song. All in all Nanook prove to be a charming, sincere and very laid-back and inclusive live act to witness, although for obvious reasons you likely get more out of seeing them if you know their language.

Small Time Giants

After a thorough changeover, the stage looks lighter on both equipment and personnel, and the floor is more sparsely populated with audience as well, yet Loppen is still fairly busy for Small Time Giants' closing set. True to the atmospheric style of their debut album, the band comes on to the sound of a sampled speech and starts setting up their airy, anthemic indie/pop-rock. Frontman Miki Jensen immediately draws attention to himself, both by putting groovy movement into his playing, but also by his affected, clear singing, which is so reminiscent of Placebo's Brian Molko. The set is plagued by issues with guitarist Pilutannguaq Hammeken's microphone, which unfortunately feeds quite a bit, despite being turned down so low that his backing vocals are pretty much inaudible. The immediate qualities of the band's songs still come across easily enough though, and Jensen acts the present frontman by speaking confidently yet down to earth with the audience between songs, revealing the band's dreams of someday being able to play shows where all the songs are hits.

Hopefully though, Small Time Giants will work towards this by spicing things up rather than dumbing them down, for while there's urgency and an immersive atmosphere to their ambient expression, you do miss having something extra, like simply a contrastful bridge part added, as many of their songs build up gently, repeat their chorus and then fade rather quickly. This and the fact that their songs are very similar tempo wise starts to work against them after an otherwise captivating first half hour, but similarly to Nanook, Small Time Giants have a longer set in mind, making room for both older songs and covers of other Greenlandic artists. They add colour to the long end of the set by throwing out confetti and glow sticks, which adds to the festive mood of the evening, but on the flipside, the "sit down-jump-up" routine and a crowd surfing excursion on top of the front crowd is perhaps a bit more than what fits the occasion. Still, the evening leaves you with the impression of a band that has obvious talent to work with, along with a confident and active stage presence and an intention to activate their crowds. As with Nanook, they arguably play a bit longer than their qualities can bear, but then the night's theme makes it sort of a hometown gig away from home for them, so in that regard it perhaps make sense. All in all, the impression that you should keep an eye on these guys remains after catching them live.

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