When I first saw Smallpools live in concert, the year was 2013 and they were opening for the then-unknown band called Twenty One Pilots. While I was mostly there for the main act, I found myself truly enjoying the fun, upbeat tunes of Smallpools, and later took the time to really listen to their music. Two years later, this once unknown opener has released their first full-length debut album, and listening to it really brought me back to the first time I heard this band live.
While pop music has a reputation for being shallow and meaningless, Smallpools ditches these misconceptions with their brand of highly innovative indie pop which is sure to catch the ear of anyone who’s heard it. However, early fans who caught their first single “Dreaming” in 2013 will notice that it remains one of the best songs on the album. Although Smallpools does an excellent job at taking the concept of generic pop music and making it unique, some of the songs released on “Lovetap!” simply fall short.
As mentioned, I first saw Smallpools in November of 2013; they were the opener, and after purchasing their single “Dreaming” online, I was excited to hear more. While Smallpools began strong with a catchy lead single, the song is far from new. In fact, “Dreaming” was released as the lead single from “Lovetap!” in May of 2013, and “Lovetap!” itself was not released until March of 2015 – nearly a two year gap. During this gap, Smallpools took time to tour and create the rest of the album in the studio, but it clearly put a dent in the momentum they had going from their catchy single and tour with Twenty One Pilots.
Interestingly enough, the vibe of “Lovetap!” is highly indicative of a live Smallpools show. Each song in and of itself sounds great, but listened in conjunction with other songs from the band simply makes each one forgettable. On their own they are catchy, innovative pop tunes, while with each other, they have little to help them stand apart. This is the ultimate downfall of an otherwise highly-enjoyable album. When an album is going through production, artists and producers typically understand the importance of variation on an album, whatever the genre may be. Some songs should be upbeat, some should be slow, and others can be driven or angry. This is up to the band themselves to decide, however Smallpools seems to have missed the memo on this basic production concept.
While it’s true that Smallpools does an excellent job of creating a unique brand of innovative and fun pop music, it’s also true that they seem to know how to create little else. The lack of moving or thoughtful music on “Lovetap!” really shows the limits of Smallpools as a band, and makes it clear they strive at making one type of music, and one type of music only – indie pop. The music featured on “Lovetap!” can be equated to music by another indie pop band known as the Mowgli’s: highly enjoyable, yet repetitive throughout the course of the album.
Although “Lovetap!” comes across as the Smallpools EP with some added bonus songs, there are specific songs on the album which really shine through on their own. Lead single “Dreaming” is by far one of the catchiest pop songs of the decade, and will be stuck in any listener’s ear for some time after it’s first been heard. It’s the perfect song to fill the role of “lead single,” and can be enjoyed by those with vastly different music tastes. In addition, the song “Dyin’ to Live” is just as infectious as “Dreaming,” and really shows the highlights of what Smallpools has to offer.
While “Lovetap!” is home to many excellent and catchy tunes, the main issue with the release is its lack of new material. Prior to the release of the “Lovetap!” full-length album, a shorter album known as the “Smallpools EP” was available to the public. This EP featured many of the singles from “Lovetap!” and seems to have all of Smallpools’ best songs brought together. It’s true that “Lovetap!” featured several never-before-heard songs from Smallpools, but most of these additions are passable at best, and are hardly worth a listen. Many of these additional tunes are clearly designed as filler so that the band could more easily release a full-length album without coming up with creative new content, and this really shows in the quality of the songs.
Prior to the release of “Lovetap!” Smallpools fans everywhere were excited to hear new content from the up-and-coming indie pop band. While fans got what they wanted once the album was finally released, it fell short of what many were expecting. With the release of “Lovetap!” Smallpools had a chance to truly cement themselves in the indie pop scene as innovators, however the lack of new, engaging content on the album may have cut their future opportunities short. While the tunes featured on “Lovetap!” are highly infectious and catchy, they have little to separate them from the same type of catchy music heard on the radio, which in the end really held back the potential of this album. This being said, do not underestimate just how great the singles from the album really are – when we say they’re catchy, that’s no lie. Songs like “Dreaming” and “Karaoke” will without a doubt get stuck in the head’s of anyone who’s heard them, and honestly deserve more recognition than they’ve received so far. That in mind, they are backed up by a less than impressive full-length album, really cutting back on the potential success of these tracks, as well as the success of the band as a whole.