Named after his sadly departed “beloved black lab mutt”, Smidley is the new solo project of Foxing vocalist Conor Murphy. It is an adventure which sees the singer move away from the more intense post rock/dark ambient pastures of the St Louis band to explore lighter climates of indie pop infused alternative/psych rock but lyrically continue his ability to immerse the listener in the heart of songs which on his debut self-titled album either wear an almost mischievous grin or share the richest shadows of emotions. The result is a release which personally captivates far more eagerly and memorably than his day job and leaves the imagination basking in the fusion of melancholy and joy.
Talking about the album, Murphy announced its making as “…the greatest time I’ve ever had making, recording or playing music in my life,” going on to say “I tried to eliminate any expectations for this record and focused entirely on having a good time with it.” Listening to the ten tracks making up the album, it is easy to hear that care free emotion and energy, each song seeming to have a smile on its creative face whether romping with ears or sharing their more intensely intimate moments.
Featuring a handful of Murphy’s friends with saxophonist Cameron Boucher from Sorority Noise, Tigers Jaw’s guitarist Ben Walsh, and drummer Eric Slick of Dr Dog and Lithuania fame amongst them, the Joe Reinhart produced and mixed album opens up with the feisty exploits of Hell. Within its first couple of breaths, it is energetically strolling through ears with bold beats and a great bulbous bassline courting a bubbling of steely riffs and hooks; Murphy’s distinct melodic tones casting their warm caresses across it all. The track’s canter seems to grow more tenacious as brass and melodies weave their sultry patterns across the swiftly engaging slice of inescapably infectious pop rock.
The excellent start is continued and escalated by successor No One Likes You; it’s almost teasing web of cheeky hooks and quaint melodies irresistible with their Buzzcocks meets Weezer like character and virulent catchiness. With more creatively shiny things to induce raw lust and a greedy appetite than found in a diamond mine, the song is pure captivation working its flirtation up to the end when Dead Retrievers tries to stake its claim on the imagination. Its success is not slow in coming either, its more stable strums and calm exterior highly persuasive as it leads ears into a more tempestuous yet still composed blaze of multi-flavoured enterprise, Murphy again steering things with his emotive expression and thought catching words.
It’s more surly body and increasingly fiery climate easily hits the spot before the melodic kiss of Nothing’ll warms up ears and enjoyment; voice and guitar a bare reflection subsequently joined by the warm sighs of sax and the heavier, more hearty saunter of bass and beats. The song is a prime example of the melancholy and hope as well as contentment shaping the release, the latter hues more prevalent within the swinging dynamics and virile indie pop of Pink Gallo. Its intoxicating aroma of psych pop and volatile shoegaze is instinctively compelling, increasing its lure as more volatile textures and flavours erupt across its wonderfully mercurial landscape.
The outstanding Fuck This brings a temptation bred in the infectious inspirations of something akin to The Jam inflamed with Murphy’s own personal devouring of numerous strains of rock ‘n’ roll while It Doesn’t Tear Me Up is an acoustic exhalation laying on ears and heart like a fresh morning dew bred from previous harsh impacts but sharing the dawn of new hopes and adventures. Both tracks simply beguile in their differing ways as too Power Word Kill with its contagion of rock pop; harmonies and melodies rivalling hooks and driving rhythms in seduction and manipulation.
The album closes with the twin acoustic led and emotional contemplations of Milkshake and Under The Table, two tracks which smouldered in their persuasion rather than commanded quick and forceful attention but reached the same height of temptation over time. The honesty to both tracks is as gripping as their sounds and invention, providing the release with a powerful and compelling end.
Also featuring the craft of guitarists Jon Heredia, Dominic Angelella, and Joe Reinhart alongside that of bassist Tyler Long, and percussionist Ricardo Lagomisino, the Smidley album is an instant joy which truly just gets bigger and better with every outing.
The Smidley album is out now through Triple Crown Records and available @ https://smidley.bandcamp.com/releases
Pete RingMaster 03/06/2017
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