Summer is blueberry season! Smilewithteeth‘s new EP captures the carefree feeling of wandering in the brambles, choosing the juiciest bits and putting the rest in a kerchief or basket. The ebullient music also carries a tone of transition from lockdown to travel, from school to graduation, from the east coast of the United States to the west. Reassuringly, these tracks also bear the fingerprints of friends, who contribute trumpet, guitar and voice and make the album feel like a home away from home.
While most of the EP is instrumental, the two vocal pieces open windows to new RIYLs. “Hearing Voices” and “Leaving” bear traces of early The Notwist and The Postal Service, the artist’s warm voice matched by striking stereo clarity. As the timbre shifts at 2:30 of “Hearing Voices,” one appreciates the compositional complexity: the trumpet sounds, the tempo increases, the words echo, the drums surge to the fore. As “Leaving” skips merrily from a pop tempo to 200 BPM and back (adding swift birds along the way), one recalls “Such Great Heights” and wonders if this might become the artist’s first crossover hit. The closing monologue (“I’m holding an egg in my mouth …”) is especially endearing.
While one can read the travelogue in the titles (“Made by Opportunity,” “Far Away,” Water,” the aforementioned “Leaving,” and “Good Time”), the instrumentals also bear a tone of anticipation. The EP begins in dreamlike fashion with a brief, scratchy overture, like the. needle on the record anticipating the song. The static stretches into “Far Away” and “Water,” now joined by melody as the dream becomes reality. Like many COVID-era recordings, Blueberries imagines a freedom of clothing, movement, and touch, the artist’s hopeful timbres intact. The closing track looks back through a series of loops before focusing its gaze on new surroundings. Even for people who haven’t moved in the last year, the world may seem renewed as the blueberries reach their ripeness. (Richard Allen)