Small Sins

Small Sins

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Although Small Sins may be classified as indie electronica -- which wouldn't be wrong: nearly all of the elements that regulate that distinction are present in the group's debut album -- there's also a living quality to their music that is often missing in that of many of their peers. Perhaps this comes from the fact that singer, songwriter, and main instrumentalist Thomas D'Arcy has spent most of his life in Canada; cold is a part of his life. But instead of letting it control him, he has embraced it (the band performs in all white and both of Small Sins' album covers are mostly white) and not surrendered to it (despite the almost hysterical cries in the chorus of "We Won't Last the Winter"), learning how to accept it and use it to his advantage. He has found the bit of warmth that exists within it and that keeps everything from freezing over completely. Not that this is tepid music; rather, it's more like a day of sun in the middle of January, a reminder that there's something else. D'Arcy's choruses especially convince listeners of this: they're catchy and friendly; they're almost soulful with vocal layering and simple with repeating phrases and ideas; they get their point across without pounding it in painfully. In "Stay" he tells his former love "You can stay if you want to/But you can't sleep in my bed," after which he backhandedly whispers "Oh please stay," like an aside, like his words are just part of a role he has to play, and "She's the Source" is wonderfully composed, with organic guitars, drums, and bass acting as the main structure around which his words find their place. In fact, the songs in which D'Arcy minimizes the electronica elements work better than those that use them more freely. While "Small Sins/Big Within" has a bit more emotion than the average Postal Service track, there's still a sense of detachment that pervades it, and this feeling is even stronger in "At Least You Feel Something," which, although it is perhaps an attempt to reinforce the song's meaning and effect, is more boring than anything else, and finds D'Arcy so despondent and self-involved that he's hard to sympathize with. This is all unfortunate, because it tempers otherwise engaging songs with flatness, and so even though Small Sins are close to changing the direction and sound of indie electronica, they're not quite there yet.

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