Smile manages to combine indie credibility and a fun musical experience. A musical entity resulting from a collaborative effort, Smile features Bjorn Yttling from Peter Bjorn and John and a guy named Joakim Aklund from an electro outfit called Teddybears.
The most interesting thing about this collaboration is the de-emphasis on vocals. This allows for the creation of pop-instrumental mini-epics that are centered around a couple of basic ideas. To compensate for the lack of vocals, a fairly varied timbral palette is utilized. All of these elements are present on the very first track, ‘Jeans Team’; the rest of the album is a play on the general presentation and mood of this track, which is musically interesting while also being fun and danceable.
Following hot on the heels of the simplistic grandeur of the first track, the second track, Satellite Blues, is just that, a twelve bar blues progression filtered through the groups aesthetic, and promoting a positive message. It’s gonna be all right. The presence of this track proves just how durable one of the oldest harmonic sequences in the Western world really is. Present is the buoyant optimism that pervades the entire album.
If there’s any criticism of this record, it’s that the general uniformity of the compositional style causes the tracks to blend together a little bit; the lack of vocals has a tendency to reinforce this particular thing. The sheer enjoyableness of the whole thing works to mitigate the mild case of monotony the album suffers from. All the same, the middle of the album does have a tendency to become one long track, something akin to a multi-movement classical work, but with less variety.
The last half to the album features a few tracks with vocals; seemingly in accordance with the general aesthetic approach of the whole album, the lyrics are almost childlike in their simplicity. The effectiveness of this approach is most apparent on track 8, From Time To Time; something about the stark simplicity of the lyrics and arrangement combine to produce an emotional impact that is much more intense than might be expected. While not necessarily the most profound musical statement ever produced, the danceable quality and directness of the whole thing produce an album that is thoroughly enjoyable in its simplicity. On top of that, it’s the first ever ‘artist album’ for Ingrid records, whatever that is.
Tags: paul paradis, Reviews, SMILE, Smile - A Flash in The Night album review