Imagine you come across a small and humble wooden structure in a forest clearing. At first, it may come across as a ramshackle shack, a home for hobos and roustabouts, possibly constructed from plywood and discarded tires. You might almost feel sorry for the person or people who call this structure home.
As you get closer, and begin to investigate, you begin to notice intricacies: a wind chime made of polished brass, that sings like a canary; vines of delicate morning glories, scaling a trellis, heralding the dawn; gargoyle faces and twisted dragons, carved into the mahogany scrollwork. In the fraction of a moment, you go from pity to envy, as you begin to see this humble wooden structure as a woodland palace, with its occupants as a kind of prince or mythical princess, living an elegant life, free from worries and care.
Listening to the Living Room EP, from the Kent, Ohio quartet Small Wood House, is a similar sort of re-apprecation. Their quaint, lo-fi dream folk pop may seem hasty and cobbled together, on first glance, but further scrutiny reveals charming details, that show warmth, care, quality and craftsmanship. The first indicator is on "Living Room", with its spectral choir of layered vocals, like a hurricane of cuckoo clocks over an intricate gridwork of beats and pulsing, slightly schizophrenic bass. There is nothing hasty or ill-conceived on this short EP.
"Living Room" sets the stage, as I am always a fan of elaborate arrangements and productions, but it is the first few seconds of "Kitchen Floor" when I began to swoon, convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt of the musical merits of Small Wood House. A dreamy, chiming elaborate electric piano, whose chords have been cribbed from Bach's The Well Tempered Clavier or Pachelbel's Canon. No shoddy, lo-fi folk band is copping from Bach, and layering sweet and soulful vocals and swaying beach rhythms. These arrangements are a glimpse behind the scenes into Small Wood House's working method; revealing them to be clever and fastidious songwriters.
Too often, bands use fuzz, distortion, reverb, and echo to hide a lack of talent or original ideas. But some, as in the case of Small Wood House, use fuzz and reverb to create a kind of heat mirage, to lend a dreamy effec to their already excellent craft.
Small Wood House are the best of the best, along with popular roots-infused artists like Blitzen Trapper, the aerial artistry of Bon Iver or Panda Bear, and fuzz architects like Beach House. Do not let the humble presentation fool you. You will find their name next to the rest, in short order. You heard it here first.
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