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Passive Aggressiveness Is All You Need: Small Color’s In Light

The risk critics run by penning a negative review of a relatively unknown group is that said pan will actually spur readers to seek out the music. Such is the case with Japanzine’s review of Yokohama duo Small Color’s In Light (which is only available through the PDF of the issue, go here to check that out). The mag’s review, more passive aggressive but ultimately dismissive of the album, convinced me to give In Light a listen. Lo and behold, I’m here to offer up the “foreign person living in Japan writing about music” counterpoint.

Small Color churn out the type of formless folk songs artists like Tenniscoats and Cokiyu, guided vaguely forward by a beat but ultimately content to hang around in the air. In Light boasts 11 such soundscapes built primarily from guitar, glockinspiel and toy piano. Japanzine chides the band for lacking direction…but that’s exactly why this band succeeds. Similar to Meso Meso, Small Color find slowly unfolding beauty and let it wisp about. Even that’s a little misleading – In Light isn’t all snail-paced folkin’ around. The one-two early punch of “Daisy” and “Life” find the duo exploring their pop sensibilities, their sound getting an extra dose of sunshine. Even more unexpected are the hip-hop influences that sneak in. “Arrows Of Time” and (especially) the laid back groove of “Moss” sound closer to a beat tape than Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Which brings me to my biggest gripe with the Japanzine review, the claim Small Color are “coffee-shop crooners.” In Light never dips into the self-absorbed boring waters of open mic night music, and also explores various genres while staying true to the band’s strongest point. Sometimes the prettiest things just sorta hang around.