As much as we regularly get tempted to high levels by the craft and imagination of artists and their offerings there are some encounters which continue to nag away until inspiring even greater lustful attention within. Devour the debut album from Smiling is one, a record which straight away had its hooks in deep but almost taunted us to return to its striking exploits until it has currently become a must play each and pretty much every day.
Smiling is the creation of composer, songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, Annie Shaw, a band starting in 2015 under the guise of Annie Girl and the Flight. We cannot say when the now San Diego based outfit changed in name but certainly over the past six years it has made several tours of the USA and Canada with two tours opening for Against Me. 2016 saw the current line-up of guitarist Josh Pollock, bassist Mark Nelsen and drummer Sonny Pearce alongside Shaw in place. Their sound is a fusion of alternative and psych rock with dream pop and post punk evolved invention, this honed into the band’s own infectious, melodically haunting adventure and as Devour proved, a proposition that seduced with an esurient appetite.
Strange Attractor opens up the release and swiftly teases instincts for rapacious rock ‘n’ roll as guitars and bass spring an animated hook. Just as quickly the track opens up its sonic vat, hazy flumes swirling around that core enticement whilst being joined by the just as magnetic tones of Shaw. That infectious clamour continues to twist and turn, psych rock essences singeing the athletic endeavours of the outstanding starter.
The following Lighthouse hugs ears in a warm melodic engagement, its House of Love/Mighty Lemon Drops hue as richly captivating as Shaw’s arresting vocals. A tempestuous edge adds to the tempting, the track more volatile and inescapably contagious by the second setting up ears and appetite for the just as enthralling and fertile exploits of The Well. Drama soaks every note and vocal incitement, the violin of Sivan Lioncub (Everyone is Dirty) escalating the psych stoked post punk theatre of the ear gripping track.
As Other Lives strolled through ears with its greedily persuasive hooks and manipulative rhythms and the following Forgetful Sam serenaded with its contemplation and mercurial emotive landscape our enslavement to the temptation was finding new levels. From the pop infused elements of the first to the fervent sonics of the second, the pair seared a new peak in the lofty landscape of the album which Do What You Want only added to with its evocative shimmer and Shaw’s mesmeric tones. Like a whisper with unbridled passion driving its urgency, the track only brews greater intensity and drama with every passing moment as well as just as dynamic catchiness. At times there is a kind of Pylon meets Altered Images essence to Smiling’s sound and no more irresistible than in this rapturous fire of a song.
The album’s glorious title track echoes its title in character, a surging hungry slice of alt rock/pop with a creative greed to dig even deeper in its listener’s psyche; success achieved in quick time through its imaginative mania before FPS weaved a post punk tango with its own manipulative orchestration of rhythms, sonic enticement and scorched melodic intimation entangling the imagination simultaneously. As in many tracks there is a euphoric air to the song and sound, an outer body adventure which bewitches as it torrefies any distractions to its unique realm.
The final pair of the melancholically seductive Take Your Time, a track which grows bigger, bolder and more beautiful by the breath, and Duval Gardens bring Devour to a fascinating close. The last song similarly is a gentle caress of the senses and incitement of thought and captivation. Its unassuming sway and tender radiance again bred a kind of rapture with volatility in its heart, a furnace that escapes the simmer with just as compelling persuasion and an element that in many ways turns the song from understanding friend to predator by its close.
Devour is one of the year’s essential pleasures, an album as we say that will not leave us alone and nor do we wish it or the sensational Smiling to do so.
Devour is out now via Rebel Wave Records on Vinyl, CD and streaming formats; available @ https://rebelwavesrecords.bandcamp.com/album/devour
Pete RingMaster 14/09/2021
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