I recently started thinking that they were one of few bands that really have shone brightly in the 10-year absence of synth pop’s crown jewel, so Small Black’s new album, Limits of Desire, was the perfect ride home from seeing The Postal Service. Fast-forward a week, and I’m seeing them live at Rock & Roll Hotel.
Go figure… Opener Go Cozy arrived late. I kid, I kid. I really like this band. I saw them open for Twin Sister at the backstage of the Black Cat recently and was impressed. Apparently, Twin Sister’s Andrea Estella was impressed, too; she designed the cover for their forthcoming EP, Moonroof. A couple of their songs have the same cadence as Twin Sister’s, so it totally makes sense. Self-described dream poppers, their sound live had more of a ruckus flare to it, especially in the drums. Perfect for the hot summer night. Singer, guitarist, and total character Homero said at one point, “I’m dripping sweat of joy… Who wants to sweat?”
Then, I don’t know if it’s the time spent on the road or what, but the beanie-wearing chubby dude who bounced around in the middle of the stage when I saw Small Black previously at The Ottobar had been replaced by a leaner, cleaner-cut Josh Kolenik. “DC is our home away from home,” announced Kolenik near the beginning of their set. They started things off with a New Chain song, his hand shaking above the sampler, before they delved into new material. Things started to feel comfortable and really begin to mesh by the third song, where the added emphasis on guitar started to become clear.
People swayed, and eyes closed to new cuts like “Free at Dawn.” “This next song is about how hard it is to be in love,” Kolenik said before “Limits of Desire.” By the time we all got to “the dance portion of the evening,” we were so ready for “New Chain.” They counted down the hook, and a bunch of hands shot into the air. It was the song that just made me want to put my face in my hands and join the sway.
When they played “No Stranger,” my favorite off the new album probably due in part to the Teen Vogue-esque music video, I knew for sure that Small Black had achieved something new and worth a damn. The way they have shaved the layers down from the older material and crystallized their songwriting on the new songs shows me that they’re on their way to becoming even better.
They reciprocated the sentiment. “We’ve been on tour for a month, and you guys are probably the best crowd so far.”