Similar Phantoms

by Small Reactions

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about

Small Reactions’ debut full-length album, Similar Phantoms, is a record of dark recesses viewed through a pop lens. It’s not common—rare, even—that such stream-of-consciousness, death-affected narratives become fodder for pop music, but that juxtaposition defines this record. This is a pop album, but these aren’t love songs. And that’s precisely the point.

Similar Phantoms contains pop songs from an alternative perspective, for the other side of the coin. Set atop a foundation of noisy guitars, droning organs, weird angles, and a hypnotic rhythm section, the songs become equally tangible and challenging.

As proof that the goal of Similar Phantoms is to subvert, the album opens with “Minibeasts and Ourselves,” a noisy, drone heavy eulogy, before moving on to “Terrorangles,” “Mt. Ogee,” “Hung From Wire” and other taught narratives. Told through an acutely aware perspective, these are the stories of bad dreams, nearly missed connections, debt, and a less than willing suspension of disbelief. Coming from a band firmly rooted in Atlanta, GA, these images create a unique Southern Gothic bent that reflects both the immediate surroundings in which the songs were written and recorded, and a long lineage of like-minded artists.

Similar Phantoms is intended to capture as closely as possible the kinetic, frenetic energy and electricity with which Small Reactions performs live. Taking musical cues from acts such as Stereolab and Echo & the Bunnymen, these songs maintain forward momentum, often at a motorik pace. Minimal instrumentation and economical structure are evident in songs like “Sudden Walks,” “Saint in Robes,” and the title track, “Similar Phantoms.” Wire, The Strokes, and Television serve as additional reference points.

The band, Clinton Callahan (bass), Scotty Hoffman (guitar/vocals), Sam Jacobsen (organ), and Sean Zearfoss (drums), have released two 7”s, duplicated their own cassette release, and serve as backing band for fellow noise-pop subversives, Gold-Bears (Slumberland Records). They tour often and have played with bands such as Titus Andronicus, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Dream Syndicate, DIIV, Mac Demarco, The Men, The North Trolls, and others along the way. The band’s potential has always been alluded to with these accomplishments, but Similar Phantoms truly commits to tape and showcases their capabilities.

An album the listener has to invest with is not traditionally considered “pop,” but Small Reactions challenge that notion. Similar Phantoms might be a pop album, but its a distinctly atypical one by all regards. And that’s precisely the point.

**Available on LP and CD (llnks above) and on Cassette through Bear Kids Recordings here: bearkidsrecordings.com/portfolio/bkr010-small-reactions-similar-phantoms/

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credits

released 28 October 2014

Songs: Small Reactions, Similar Phantoms Music Group (BMI)

Engineering: Luciano Giarrano at The Cottage (Atlanta, GA) except track 3, "Mt. Ogee," by Jason Finkel at Converse Rubber Tracks (Brooklyn)

Mixing and mastering: Jeremy Scott at Rare Book Room and Superfund Studio (Brooklyn)

Sample: Track 1, "Minbeasts and Ourselves," contains a licensed sample courtesy of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from the episode "Buried Alive" on the radio program Nightfall

Art: Guy Maddin

Small Reactions: Clinton, Scotty, Sam, and Sean

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Track Name: Similar Phantoms
Violent turned the day
As we lay awake
A thunderstorm shook its charms
Wrapped trees around our cars

You asked me to heal
Your only brittle lung
With bright holistic words
I quit in mid-verse

You say it happens all the time
To be a similar phantom

Watch me disappear
You told those sitting near
Promise me you’ll take your hands
And shove them down your throats
Track Name: Terrorangles
How old was he?
We grew up down the street
We never spoke
But he was my hope

In truth
Not end
I closed off
From my friends
But they spoke to me
I said that I don’t care about anyone
I don’t care about anyone

I too closed off
And waved from film
And I spoke to them
And said that I don’t care about anyone
I don’t care about anyone

We’re two
Two in a wave

I don’t care about anyone
Track Name: Mt. Ogee
I was shell-shocked
In the summer
Found it silent
In the country
I was shell-shocked
In the winter
Found it lonesome
In the city
On the sidewalk

I spent the whole day long
Staring at the sun
Careening down the halls

Spent the summer
In squalor
Took a wife and
Took her name
Found her heartbeat
In the middle
Felt her heartbeat
In the middle
In the middle
In the middle

Felt her heartbeat
In the middle
In the middle
In the middle
Track Name: Hung from Wire
I can’t pay what I owe
Needless to say
On a train
Coughing flames
Needles in my mouth

Clay
On a cloud
Hung from wire

Dive
From a cliff
With the black waters rising

When I was a part
Of the violet affair
I felt its black heart beating quick
Stoned from the drums

I can’t pay what I owe
Needless to say
Silverfish
Line the walls
Of my room
Track Name: Keepah
Do you understand?
I am the perfect man
Enjoy your tan my little keepah
And I’m not ashamed I pulled the rug out
On your cheap disguise

I sold my friends out
And what for?

Do you understand?
I am the perfect man
Spending all my time in isolation
On the attic stairs

I sold my friends out
And what for?
Track Name: Shark Week
Cryptic notes and telephone calls
Stretch for weeks
The length of which I’ve never seen

I felt like sinking ships
In the undertow
Stranger are the days
And still the nights

Alone at night by kitchen light
Soft and green
Trying to speak to the air it seems

I felt like sinking ships
Track Name: Mid-Century Squall
In my car
A gospel station on
Driving west
Track Name: Sudden Walks
Repetition
It takes too long
And I’ve seen
It turn out wrong
And I won’t
Be drawn on in
Until I’m left for dead

Recognition
It takes too long
And I’ve seen
It turn out wrong
And I won’t
Be drawn on in
Until I am fighting the fight for cough syrup presidents
I’m fighting the fight for something I never knew

Repetition
Track Name: Saint in Robes
So
A chord
May bend
Again

That’s why I let you go

So
You are
A saint
In robes
Track Name: Betamax (1981)
Hold a rivulet
Like a basket of olive eyes
Kept by the walls
Bookish and overused

I knew his son

I sincerely dreamt
Of 1981
Hold a rivulet
Like a basket of olive eyes

I knew his son