From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like the Ocean is the debut album from Stockholm trio Small Feet, aka Simon Stalhamre (vocals/guitar) alongside Jacob Snavely (bass) and drummer Christopher Cantillo. Essentially a vehicle for Stalhamre’s songwriting, it’s been a long time coming as the bands focal figure battled demons, learning English from the TV after dropping out of school at 15 and becoming a virtually reclusive. With the patronage of his Uncle, who donated him somewhere to write, and the encouragement of US ex-pat Snavely he slowly rose to the surface, honing his writing, forming Small Feet and subsequently producing this, their first long player, out August 7th via Barsuk.
What they’ve produced is a set of rather lovely Americana infused songs, that sit somewhere between Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket, The Shins even, but there’s also something of the Jens Lekman about their music, this Nordic innocence and expansive nature about it. Lyrically, its an album that reveals Stalhamre’s inner struggle throughout – “When I was a boy we never talked about the dark,” sings Stalhamre, “and what the dark might bring,” in the impressive opener Gold. Often its wrapped up in metaphors for storms, darkness and the Sea (or the Ocean perhaps) but it never becomes so overbearing that it becomes like walking through emotional treacle, and the gentle ebb and flow of the music, often sugared with backing vocals and wistful whistling, never lets it get that way.
Although a fairly one (mid)paced record, there’s enough in there, melodically and lyrically, to keep the listener hooked. Stalhamre’s vocal is often mesmerising – powerful in its message, sometimes fragile in its delivery, quivering with emotion. Album standout track Rivers is a case in point. Never rushed in his storytelling, he soars over the chorus, the aching backing vocals adding the tension, while these guitars bleed anxiety, and its virtually impossible not to feel something when listening.
Elsewhere, All and Everyone trips along with more optimism, certainly at least in the gentle sway of the accompaniment and in the rather delicious whistled hook that binds it all together, whilst follow on Lead us through the night see’s the band deal with the lovely melody with sensitivity and this gorgeous ebb and flow, all the time backed with the picked chords from the guitar. But there’s moments in a lot of the songs that can take your breath, or at least cause you to hold it – the sudden, shattering drums in ‘And Repeat’, or the overbearing resignation in ‘Bend towards the Light’ particularly worthy of mention.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like the Ocean is an album to get your teeth into. It’s deep and thought provoking, wrapped up in some lovely melodies and covered in impressive Americana. Its been well worth the wait.