Friday 7 October 2011

The Little Kicks - The Little Kicks Kommentary

I've not really been the sort to do the whole 'track-by-track' thing other than my brief soiree into it with Trapped Mice a year ago.  It may have something to do with the fact that it involves the post going up before the release - something almost unheard of around these parts.  That being said, when Steven Milne from Aberdeen's The Little Kicks sent me their fantastic second album and asked if I was up for it, one listen was enough for me to give him a resounding YES!

The eponymous second album is out on the 26th of November but you can pre-order the album (for a limited time only) here.  Here's Steven to tell you all about the tracks, and you can have an exclusive wee listen to each below.  I'll pipe in with my two cents too...

"Our new album is our second album release –debut album (“Boxing Clever” was released in 2009). We recorded the album over the summer in Edinburgh at the Depot Studios which is a great studio space by the Shore in Edinburgh ran by Craig Ross (Broken Records/ Easy Tigers).

We’re all really excited about being at the point now where we get to let people hear the songs so it’s nice to be able to fill in a bit of background on what shaped the finished product." - Steven Milne

Intro/Anti-Work Song
Anti Work Song was probably the hardest song to get down. I remember we were going to give up on the Intro idea until it was saved by adding some weirdness by playing an electric guitar against a table through a Space Echo unit. The main song itself came from listening to old disco music that usually bases itself around one key/chord/note but has a lot of intricate parts which add up to an overall groove. Talking Heads and APB do this really well as do a lot of other more modern bands (Hot Chip etc). Lyrically its pretty self explanatory- it’s about hating your job and not wanting to be a slave to it. We’ve been starting with this live and it seems to be a good party starter.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  This funky little number shows a slightly different side to The Little Kicks than what we're used to.  Still, that's a very good thing indeed.  By the time it hits the refrain at the end, the party will well-and-truly have been started!

Before Today
I bought a Korg MS10 synth off EBay last year – I had wanted one for years. I was very lucky in that they rarely come up there and also never go cheaply but luckily for me I got a bargain (relatively). One of the first things I wrote on it was this songs main riff but the song and lyrics didn’t come till much later. It started as a really soft acoustic song almost like The National with a low vocal. I took it to the band and switched back to the MS10 as opposed to guitar and the song completely changed. It was a great example of us writing collaboratively and for the better. The acoustic version goes down well too though so were going to do a recorded version of it in the near future for a B-Side.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  Now that's more like The Little Kicks I've grown to love!  Upbeat indie-pop, insanely-catchy ooh-la-la-la's, and a huge singalong ending.  Two songs in, and already it all seems much more polished and tighter compared to their brilliant debut.  Loving the Korg too!

Making Big Decisions
Lyrically this song is about writers block as I had a long time when I couldn’t write anything and felt pretty unsettled by it. Then this song came out of nowhere one night and the words just fell into place over it. Of the new tracks it’s probably the closest of the tracks (along with “Call Of Youth”) to the perceived sound of The Little Kicks of old. We did try and subvert it and play around with it but in essence that beat and feel it has are pretty popular in modern songs for a reason. We felt it served the song better to play it as it was written – as a jangly indie pop song. I’ve been told it’s probably the one you’d most likely hear on a radio -here’s hoping that’s true.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  Steven's right, this is the Don't Give Up So Easily of the album, the track which, were there any justice in the music world, would see The Little Kicks get the widespread acclaim this album, and indeed they themselves, rightly deserve.

Loosen Up
This song took a long time to write but it is my favourite song on the album. It initially had no middle eight and was more along the lines of an 8 minute electronic jam. We abandoned that and honed, trimmed and tightened it. We went to town on the synths as every new layer we added seemed to take it somewhere else so we just kept going. We have played this song out and it seems to be the song that most people ask about to make sure it’s on the album. We managed to mix of a heap of influences together on this one including everything from Fela Kuti style drums to Blondie guitar to DFA style synths and claps. The title is the name of a club night we run in our home-town.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  This song had me nervous listening to it first time 'round.  Good nervous mind you.  It slowly builds up, layer upon layer, and you just know it's gonna eventually kick off!  When it does (and even beforehand) it's brilliant.  Another funky masterpiece!  It's easy to see why it's Steven's favourite.

The First Place
When I first demo-ed this song I never thought it would ever be playable live. In my head I could hear so much going on (brass parts alongside harmonies and percussion etc) and we are a 4 piece. This song wouldn’t work without the extras so it made our decision for us that on this record that we not be shy to add things that couldn’t be played live. Lyrically I wrote it when I was in a pretty frustrating situation and the band was always coming second for me which was getting me down. I worked in a music venue 24/7 but had no time for my own music so I was pretty downbeat at the time. We have played it live with guest brass players and it goes down really well- girls particularly seem to really like it.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  I go back to what I've said in many a post on Kowalskiy.  Steven Milne is one of, and in fact, at this moment in time, I'd probably go as far as to say, thee best songwriter around these parts.  This gorgeous , brassy, slow-burner could have been lifted straight from his outstanding solo debut last year, but instead it takes pride of place here slap-bang in the middle of the album.  Out of all of Steven's frustration has come pure songwriting perfection! 

Call Of Youth
This was the first song we recorded. We made it a single in the summer as a teaser for the new album. I guess it’s too long really to be a “single” but it was going down well live and it’s very upbeat so we wanted to share it. It has an influence from old Motown and older pop which has those kinds of clean jaunty guitars and rolling bass. Lyrically it was a bit of a dig at someone who shapes their tastes and opinions on what they think they should like instead of what they actually like. Hipsters essentially -for lack of a better word – really annoy me. It’s fairly close to the LKs “sound” of old but I think its way beefier and rockier than anything we’ve done before and a good stepping stone song for linking the two albums.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  The first single, and the only track I'd heard before I was sent the album.  'Twas a great choice to build up some hype.  From the pulsating drum beat, jangly guitars, through the singalong chorus, all the way to the haunting outro, the track perfectly sums up the album. 

Do Something New
I think bands like Orange Juice or Mystery Jets are great. This is an attempt to make one of those kinds of summery pop songs tracks in their vein. I wrote it very quickly but the band version has changed a million times before now since it was first written. It’s become shorter and leaner along the way and poppier too. The Outro has potential sing-along quality to it which is fun and when we recorded it we had fun adding Violin (courtesy of Rory from Broken Records), Moog synths and group vocals. We wanted it to be a really fun track and I think that comes across.
Kowalskiy Verdict:  If I was pushed, I'd say this is my favourite.  Is it the fact that, at many times throughout, it sounds like it's gonna burst into an '80s disco anthem?  Is it the lots of lovely, subtle layers, harmonies and melodies all intertwined?  Is it that Rory from Broken Records is there with his violin?  Or is it the great big smile that forms on your face as it comes to an end?  It is in fact, all those and much, much more!

Far Too Honest
This song comes from the same place as Loosen Up where there is an almost Latin influence to it. It’s another song that we wrote quite early on together but it wasn’t until we got into the studio and heard it back that it really came together. It’s quite moody for us and gets quite heavy but I think it’s a nice way to wrap up the record as a book end with Anti Work Song. This was the first track we wrote with our new drummer and the first example that we could write together. It started as me having a chord progression on a synth and a melody and become the finished product by jamming it out over time as a unit and was that was a big first for us.
Kowalskiy Verdict: Moody and heavy to say the least!  I love the atmospheric synth that permeates the whole track, complimenting the Latin-influenced guitars and drums.  But what I love the most is this heavier side to The Little Kicks, lots of power and passion like all things Latin should be.  Bravo!

So all-in-all, a very, very welcome return from The Little Kicks, and a huge thanks to Steven for his track-by-track walkthrough of the album.  With so much going on, so many little subtleties, a wee tweak of their usual style here and there, throwing in some brass, string and synths, I can imagine it'd be easy for things to become over-complicated and simply not work.   No such problem for The Little Kicks though.  They have absolutely nailed it! 

The Little Kicks' self-titled second album is out on the 26th of November.  If you like the track previews above, then you can pre-order the album here.

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