SMAIBLUE – That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon – Album Review
I’ve been a big fan of this project ever since I started listening to the subtle sounds of SMAIBLUE earlier this year, back in the summer when I reviewed a handful of singles. Back already with a whole new set of songs built of pure audio serenity, SMAIBLUE caps off a stellar year in the history of this project with the release of a gorgeous lineup of highly artistic tunes on That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon.
Partnered up with artist Syauu, SMAIBLUE goes for a collaboration to start the brand-new record with the soft sounds of “Navigate” beginning this set of soul-soothing sounds. “Navigate” relies heavily on the layers of vocals to guide it…hearing the way the multiple layers interact and create the melody is a beautiful experience…it builds so unexpectedly, that by the time you’re in the thick of it all, you’ll realize there are quite a few voices in the mix to form the hooks you’re hearing. It results in a really well-designed & dreamy combination of melody from the microphone and yields a truly harmonious collaboration with the low vocals of SMAIBLUE and the high vocals of Syauu sounding stunning together. This isn’t a project that’s bound to ever bring you something ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ when it comes to the music & ideas you’ll find – so if anyone is expecting SMAIBLUE to start this record out with a straight-ahead Pop song, you’ve got another thing coming for sure. “Navigate” ends up being one of the album’s more divergent tunes – still cohesive with what you’ll find on this album, but even the small twists on the songs add up to big ones when it comes to That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon; even just having the presence of a second vocalist and a track that is built around the vocals to begin with, becomes what you’ll find is a major change when it comes to the majority of what you’ll hear. Unique right off the drop though…no question about that…”Navigate” is completely interesting to listen to.
Listen to the sparkling & stunning twinkle in the music as “How It Feels When It’s Just Us Being Close” will ya? Extraordinary! I absolutely love the textures and the mesmerizing amount of captivating sound gently dancing throughout the opening minute – an outstanding start to this second track from SMAIBLUE’s new album. While I know I might be the exception in wanting the entire song to stay in that singular mode because of how amazing it sounds to me personally – I understand ya gotta switch things up to keep it interesting for the rest of the people out there too. And so, SMAIBLUE goes about doing that by spreading out the sound into the space and atmosphere you’ll find in the bulk of “How It Feels When It’s Just Us Being Close.” Somewhere around the 3:30 mark and toward the fourth minute, just slightly before, you’ll find the most wonderful audio treat for your ears put into the mix so expertly but so naturally; it stands out because it’s a beautiful sound, but also because of the stoic reliability in the swirl of the background music too. I don’t quite know that anything is going to beat that first minute & twenty-seconds or so for myself personally – like I said, I could listen to that moment forever and never get bored or less fascinated; but in the end, I still dig the warm glow of the atmospheric & ambient sound being created for the larger portion of “How It Feels When It’s Just Us Being Close” that follows.
After the album’s longest instrumental song, vocals are reintroduced to the record through the song “Last Love” – you’ll find that most of these tracks have some singing added to them overall. A tiny tune at just over two minutes & fifteen-seconds long, you can’t deny the clever mix of curious sound and sweetness here, or how haunting-yet-beautiful the results are. Far from any kind of typical performance, “Last Love” has genuinely captivating qualities to it that keep your attention affixed intensely, to the point where you could likely hear a pin drop in behind you as this song plays on. I’ll fully admit – I wasn’t entirely sold on “Last Love” in the first couple spins through this record – this cut is a great example that went from good to great to all-out fascinating as I continued to listen. I love the sparseness of the music, I love the weary way that SMAIBLUE sings such beautiful words, as if fighting right to the very last breath and to use what little time is left to communicate what’s really important.
“Caught In September” gives the vocals a bit more time to make an impact on ya, at nearly double the length of “Last Love” just prior. Poetic & unapologetic in the humble way it’s sung & recorded, “Caught In September” gives you raw beauty untarnished, with just a hint of that Indie-awesomeness that gives SMAIBLUE its magic. Beautifully written, the lyrics of this song come out so impressively personal & authentic through the way that they’re sung with such a mix of hazy swagger and romance in the delivery…it feels like this song means something to SMAIBLUE; and as a result, it connects to us strongly. You’ll absolutely find some of the most magical vocals on this entire record in “Caught In September” – the poetic design of the lyrics is full of beautiful imagery & love, the fragility and earnestness that SMAIBLUE sings with, the clever switches in the melody that occur around the 3:20-ish mark also add a ton of depth to this artistically-inspired tune. Musically, I think it’s 100% gorgeous…vocally, I think SMAIBLUE’s strange style is a perfect fit here as well – I’d put “Caught In September” up there with my favorite tracks from this record. It’s really loaded with remarkable lyricism…powerfully emotional and thought-provoking lines like “I believe in you when you don’t,” or “I’m so grateful for you” become massive moments and statements that really reveal just how much heart is at the core of this project. And don’t go underestimating that final switch I pointed out at 3:20…I’m tellin’ ya, it’s an amazing part of the song and one that has the ability to draw out the rest of the emotion traveling with the words perfectly. All in all, “Caught In September” is a wonderful example of how music is art, and art is music.
Where things might become a bit more difficult for some to hang on and others make the decision to stick with the art that SMAIBLUE is creating, is on the song “Crimson Staircase.” This particular cut is where you end up appreciating the writing & lyricism every bit as much as the music, if not more; “Crimson Staircase” nearly plays like complete support for the vocals, which carry the melody boldly. As bare as it is, you still feel the impact when what little music there is gets ripped out from underneath you as the song heads to a close, leaving the vocals of SMAIBLUE completely naked, and sounding every bit as amazing on their own. Am I interested in this? Would you be interested in this? I know where I’m at – I love what SMAIBLUE creates and think what’s happening in this project is exceptional – listening to the sounds of satellites or whatever the background is created from, combined with the most gentle hint of melody in the distance, and the faint melody that SMAIBLUE brings to the vocals…it’s all pretty genius if you ask me. As subtle and unassuming as it may come across, it’s powerfully unique music. From a writer, creator, or artist’s standpoint, I think you really have to dig what this project is capable of – and hearing the results come to life on tunes like “Crimson Staircase” that are essentially unlike anything else you’re going to hear this year…I mean c’mon right? SMAIBLUE deserves your respect.
I dig the layer of mystery that slides into the atmosphere with “Two Different Worlds” – there’s a tangibly distant sound to this song that’s highly interesting to listen to. Similar to how I felt about “Crimson Staircase,” “Two Different Worlds” also feels like a vehicle for SMAIBLUE’s words – but also true is the fact that going this route is creating something blissfully unique and stunning to listen to overall. I love how the music of “Two Different Worlds” starts to rise towards the end of the song, yet that’s when the vocals seem the most fragile and vulnerable at the same time – the contrast works wonders. It feels like there are layers of depth to crawl into and a poetic message to be discovered on “Two Different Worlds” when you listen to it…the kind of song where, even if you didn’t ‘get it’ you’d still want to sit, listen, and make the effort to try to figure it all out. I think that the advantages “Two Different Worlds” has are more or less put on display immediately; you can hear the seriousness of the idea and atmosphere instantly as this song begins…and although it’s still a long way from anything typical, there’s more tangible sound at work for people to latch onto. I also think that SMAIBLUE chooses to sing this song with a lot more focus on the melody and tone coming through without sounding as broken, fragile, and desolate as the vocals so often do on these songs. There’s a bit of extra spark, beauty, and confidence at work on the microphone on “Two Different Worlds” – it’s not until around the 2:45-ish mark that we get the more signature sound of SMAIBLUE from the vocals, right before the end. Up til that point, I think this particular track has that advantage once again of making small changes that end up standing out BIG on a record recorded with as much subtlety as this one has.
“Waltzing In A Factory” is a pretty song with a nice warm glow to it. A bit of a bizarre inclusion really, SMAIBLUE usually has a bit more goin’ on for ya than you end up with in this tune, even with as minimal as the music tends to be by design. Not only do you get a sparse amount of sounds to begin with on “Waltzing In A Factory,” but you’ll end up locked into the sweet sway of its melody and there you’ll stay. So I’m of two minds when it comes to this really; on the one hand, I know I love it personally and I’d happily sit and listen to another ten minutes of it…but I can recognize that for others this might wear out fairly quickly, even despite its short length. Hard to say for sure…just because it doesn’t change or move around a whole bunch doesn’t at all equate to a song not worth listening to…just…different. Anti-typical in the best of ways, and with a captivating sound to go along with such an idea…like all great art, it’s interpretive…you might feel like “Waltzing In A Factory” needs more – and you also might just find it has everything you need. You already know where I sit on this issue – I’m right in SMAIBLUE’s corner, 100%. It’s not like he’s keeping you locked into a ten minute monstrosity; he’s got ya for two hypnotic minutes.
There’s a quaintness to the music SMAIBLUE makes that gives it all a really wonder-filled sound…like songs that gently beckon you down the rabbit-hole to experience an entire world-full of magical tunes. You don’t hear songs like “Our Hidden Warmth” every day, and they’re certainly nowhere near the radio, not intentionally of course, but by design – that being said, underneath the surface of the internet, artists like SMAIBLUE thrive on the freedom of creativity and imagination fused together through music. Ideas like “Our Hidden Warmth” are far from normal & far removed from whatever else is happening in the mainstream right now…and the amount of pressure off of an artist like SMAIBLUE allows this project to flourish and break new ground. Of course what comes with that, is the need for patience – people may/may-not catch onto something like this right away at first – they might even find the artistic element a bit too much to wrap their minds around – but by staying the course and following natural instincts, SMAIBLUE is yielding wholly unique results & an authentic signature sound of its own. Sometimes the vocals are bizarre, sometimes they’re beautiful – you could argue the same descriptions could be said for the music as well…the bottom line is, there’s always something that’ll catch your ear.
“At Her Favorite Spot” keeps the artistic nature and poetic design of That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon flowing sweetly. SMAIBLUE makes an interesting and smart choice here by not overplaying the vocals, instead favoring a more repetitive set of words and hypnotic verse that sounds like a true complement to the melody of the entire song as a whole. I’m kind of neither here nor there with “At Her Favorite Spot” when it comes right down to it; I suspect if you dig the rest of the record like I do, you’d never even think of skipping past this tune…but it’s almost so chill that this song has a harder time standing out in this lineup as well. I do really like the backing vocals and how large of a role they play – and the music itself is as interesting of a choice as ever for SMAIBLUE – I dig the repeating lyricism…ultimately I can’t fault the song for any technical reasons, it’s just a degree or two less fascinating or entertaining than the rest by comparison somehow, I suppose. You can blame me and my ears if you like – or you can blame SMAIBLUE for the excellent set of songs on this album – “At Her Favorite Spot” is still a decent tune for sure, and if you like the others, you’re bound to like this one too. There’s an innocence and sweetness that flows blissfully through the vibe & melody of “At Her Favorite Spot,” almost like you just happened to be walking through the forest and this song was being played by SMAIBLUE out in the wilderness with the trees, the smoking caterpillar, and of course, the Cheshire cat.
SMAIBLUE certainly doesn’t have to twist the knobs too hard in order to sound different from track to track…it’s the subtle changes that end up helping each song stand out, like the brilliant mix on “The Way You Drift” and the way the production echoes the dreamy atmosphere the title implies. There’s a really beautiful transition in “The Way You Drift” that now that I’ve heard it, I couldn’t live without – the faintness of the melody & music can at times be like experiencing a song from a complete distance, but the effect of that choice and the way it pulls you in close to listen deserves some serious recognition. Smart writing, smart execution – that’s what that is. I also think that there have certainly been moments along the way where you question a tone or two from SMAIBLUE’s vocals throughout the lineup of songs on this album, but you’ll find one of the most flawless performances on “The Way You Drift.” It has different demands than the majority of the rest of the songs, keeping the vocal melodies down low; there’s no doubt about the results, not only are they right on-key, but they suit the vibe perfectly. I loved listening to the bounce of the acoustic guitar line, or the effects slightly reverberate off the walls while SMAIBLUE sang this song…”The Way You Drift” feels like a beautifully intimate glimpse into the heart of this project. It’s another low-key and fully captivating song on this album.
“Glove” goes on to flex its expressively artistic design immediately, with random vocalizations scattered and floating through the air before the lead vocals come in a nearly spoken-word style, with just a hint of melody hanging attached to the lyrics. SMAIBLUE is fully reaching far beyond what most people associate with music at this point – but there’s no doubt that this is completely engaging for listeners out there that are specifically seeking out something different. Undeniably immersed in the craft – you don’t get to songs like “Glove” without fully throwing yourself into the art, which is clearly the point that SMAIBLUE has reached, and I say bravo to that. Pass or fail, or whatever the people might think of a song like “Glove,” kudos are to be paid to SMAIBLUE for continually creating music that embraces its differences and truly commits to the ideas. Some will get it, some won’t; that’s always the risk, reality, and reward in making music that chooses its own path – and when you listen to songs like “Glove” and albums like this, you definitely have to recognize that SMAIBLUE is indeed, going in its own direction.
That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon gets a reference in the final song, “I Miss You” – which is another track this album wouldn’t be complete without for sure. I’m always a massive fan of those indie artists out there that have such their own natural and honest way of describing what they see & feel around them – and lyrically, SMAIBLUE is nailing it for me with the anti-typical imagery being used with such a beautiful song surrounding the words. He’s got this all paired with such a serious & beautiful, awe-inspiring sound to the music…and you won’t see it coming at first, because the words are fairly straight-ahead in how they go about communicating love & longing. Then it happens…”the most unhealthy burger in your beautiful face” – seemingly straight outta the blue…but isn’t that the way that love actually works? You can’t predict when the feeling of love will hit you or when/what you’ll see it in – sometimes it’s right there in ”the most unhealthy burger in your beautiful face” – you know it’s true! Face facts – “I Miss You” has the kind of uniqueness in an ending that a record as inventive, imaginative, and innovative as this one really deserved. I’ll admit…usually, an album as laidback like this should have a much harder time standing out – but the entire experience over twelve songs completely stacks up into an unforgettable moment in time overall. Like I said earlier – you just don’t hear much music being made like that of which you hear in SMAIBLUE…which is tragic of course…but it’s also part of what makes this intriguing musical project even more special. That’s Enough Love Songs – See You Soon plays like the songs being made are speaking only to you…like you’re the only one with SMAIBLUE in a room alone; surprised to find how at home you feel & basking in the sound of music that’s truly inspiring and refreshing to experience. Your soul will feel rejuvenated, your heart will be full, and your ears will thank you for listening.
Find out more about SMAIBLUE from the official Facebook page here at: https://www.facebook.com/SMAIBL
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!