Small Sails makes me feel like I’m in a feature film playing the character slumped against the backseat window of a speeding car while contemplating what direction my life should head in. The Portland trio’s music is enveloping but not despotic, never abrasive and moodlessly plastic because its lyrics are mostly monosyllabic—absent mutterings from someone whose attention is elsewhere, or lyric-less syllables from someone singing along with a song he doesn’t really know.
Such ambiguity is engaging if a little too cute for art. Similar Anniversaries is an album that exudes gauzy good feeling; hip, urbane and inventive, it’s an upbeat “This American Life” interlude waiting to happen. Such moments are essential to life but hardly the only substance of which one can be made; it’s the same with an album.
And so Similar Anniversaries can be off-putting, even if it starts off endearing, because it hardly moves in any definite direction. “Aftershocks and Afterthoughts” is an exception, driven by keyboard work straight from the New Wave. Kicking out a melody with a commanding presence, the song hints at a path this amiably ambling group could one day follow—and still bring an audience along. (Jason Wiener)
Small Sails perform Wednesday, April 18, at 9 PM at The Loft with Oblio Joes and Purrbot. Cover TBA.