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Blue Smiley - "Return" | Album Review

by Nathan Springer (@drownloading)

I recently saw Philadelphia’s Blue Smiley play in Atlanta; a couple days prior they released Return on Bandcamp simply “because they were broke.” The band’s rationale for the release of this record makes me love their music even more. Return is unguarded and without pretension, indulging in equal parts sugary pop and distorted wall-of-sound instrumentation.

Like their previous album, ok, Return is a straight-to-the-point collection of fuzzy pop songs with one-word titles. The brevity of these songs serves as one of their strengths (none of them break the three minute mark), not because you want them to be over, but because they leave you wanting more. This band recognizes the merits of not letting any one idea linger too long.

Beginning with the infectious strummed chords of the opening track “Bird,” Return is a relentless string of hooks. “Flip” offsets some of the other tracks driving rhythms with a slightly slower, more stuttering approach, while the brief (even for the band’s standards) “Old” relies completely on the mid-range synth that shows up only intermittently on other tracks. Closer “Tree” ends the record on the same note it began, riding out on a mood that lies somewhere between melancholy and ecstasy. The album’s lyrics are vague, yet evocative. Half of the time they serve to bridge the gap between the extreme moods of the music and the seemingly mundane events of everyday life; elsewhere, they venture into more cryptic territory.

Return finds Blue Smiley sharpening the pop craftsmanship they displayed on their previous recordings. It is refreshing to find a band that has equal love for catchy riffs and unabashed heaviness. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, this is a perfect album to throw on for a long night drive, utilizing the loop function.