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/
releases 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