By Nathan Pavolko
It's amazing how an album or song can take you back to a specific time in your life, uncovering emotions and memories you haven't visited in years for people you were with, jobs you have had, and places you have lived, all wrapped in a painfully beautiful package. Tirelessly orchestrated just as much for the player as it is for the listener, Small Feet's debut LP From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean brings me back to my last month in Michigan, my home state, on into the first few weeks I moved to Arizona, which was an incredibly emotional and life changing journey I had to make.
For Stockholm's Simon Stålhamre, the journey began when he was fifteen. With many interests and demons he was spreading too thin,digging himself a deeper hole. He decided to feed that yearning by quitting school and take on many odd jobs, bouncing from job to job and learning English from the American TV shows repeating on local channels. He writes many songs, yet his self-destructive habits catch up to him. Dealing with many personal demons, Stålhamre goes into seclusion, shutting himself out of the world. Prerecorded tracks of music sat collecting dust over the years, until he met bass player Jacob Snavely, gently convincing Stålhamre to continue his musical project. Inspired by Snavely's words, he converts his uncle's reclusive cabin into a studio. Completing his line up with drummer Christopher Cantillo, Stålhamre goes onto make one of the most touching albums of the year, showing us what it means to be human and bearing all of his fears and struggles to the world.
Bellowing out lyrics such as "Just split the stone, and hand me the gold," the opening track "Gold" is eager to find the easy way out. The track portrays a guitar lightly strumming as a tambourine chimes with a pounding bass drum, as dual guitars walk together into the mellow chorus. In the song "Rivers" Stålhamre exposes his experiences of love. A reverb-soaked guitar plays a gentle melody as echoing cavernous voices share a story: "Love had a purpose // Love was a row // Easy to cast so hard to hold". He is describing love as a river, beautiful and likely dangerous.
Small Feet's debut is filled with wonderful indie folk gems. Such as the catchy single "All And Everyone," with its addictive whistling jingle that's sure to get stuck in your head. And the curious wander of "Lead Us Through The Night." The slow burning ballad of "Trenches" showcases Stålhamre's wavering voice in a Neil Young style crooning. Containing some of my favorite lyrics of the album, such as "Find my records and find my faults," which speaks so much truth to me. You can tell a lot about a person from their record collection.
Small Feet manages to hit home with a lot of their songs on this record. Yet, nothing comes closer than the end track "Dagmar". Lines like "This town has its own way // of making you pay // in mistakes that does seldom forgive // I'm surprised that we stay" shine a new light. With its lazy rhythm and woeful optimism, Stålhamre points his head towards the future.
From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean is a journey through the early stages of adulthood, bravely exploring the darker sides of life that few ever mention or want to deal with. The record shows us that it's okay to be human and we all have faults. For fans of Neil Young and Band Of Horses, I invite you to try this record. Small Feet release their debut LP August 7th on Barsuk Records.