Small Black – Limits Of Desire album review

It’s not a small thing to release a 44 minute album. With so many tracks it’s easy for the quality and vibe to be inconsistent the LP progresses. Limits Of Desire at the very least maintains a similar vision throughout. Their love for synthesizers and 80’s culture is never put in question in the duration of the album, its always quite clear who Small Black is and what they’re here to do.

Small Black work best when they have their uptempo nature complimented by the downtempo vibe of the singing and background noises. When the drums and instruments dial down the speed to match the vocals the songs tend to lose steam and become forgettable. There’s a fine balance to be dialed in here, Small Black hits it a few times and makes you want to drive around twilight Miami in a DeLorean. Other times the songs inspire nothing but a bathroom or drink break, Sophie in particular, as well as a couple of other songs, sound like they were ripped out of a venues playlist for bands to set up and break down their gear to.

I’m impressed with the production value here, Small Black has a go-to sound set and knows how to work it even if the results aren’t always exceedingly original. The 80’s synths and modern atmospheres do hit the spot more often than not. Even if you don’t find any particular stand-out track you may find yourself playing the record in the background just to feel like you’re in a brand new John Hughes movie, (though I wouldn’t be surprised if the band was sick of the comparison).

I was more interested in the energetic pieces Small Black has to offer, so I found the second half of the album to be more sleepy than I was looking for. Still, even in their most romantic and sensually aimed songs they maintain the same spirit of the album throughout, which is more than you can say for a lot of releases over the 40 minute mark. I waited to hear the standout dud, the one track half the band was embarrassed for but that one cocky guitarist pushed to get in the tracklist, but never heard it. Small Black is right on target, though I wonder if they can evolve in a way that makes the quiet songs more entertaining than just a relaxation aid.

It would be forgivable if you wrote off Small Black as yet another group cashing in on the 80’s reinvention trend going on lately. The aesthetic they present will surely not be to every ones taste, but if you’ve got a hunger for dreamy synthesizers and neon glasses Limits Of Desire wont be out of place as a soundtrack to your life.

By Keith Roberts

Keith is a writer, guitarist, and hobby producer out of the Greater Boston area.

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