Review: Smallpools’ debut album doesn’t make waves

Emily Gibson

Just seven months after Los Angeles-based band Smallpools formed in 2013, they signed with major label RCA Records and their song “Dreaming” climbed the alternative charts. On Monday, 22 months after they first appeared on the radio, the band released its highly anticipated debut album, LOVETAP!.

Despite the nearly two years it took Smallpools to release their first full-length album, it isn’t a particularly groundbreaking effort. But its feel-good vibe makes it the perfect soundtrack for springtime in Austin.

Smallpools’ fast-paced, dance-around-your-room music isn’t the most critically acclaimed or memorable — but it is always fun to dance to. The band’s sound is reminiscent of Walk the Moon, Magic Man and The Mowgli’s.

LOVETAP! is roughly 45 minutes of the catchy choruses and upbeat synth-pop that made Smallpools famous in 2013. It features all of the band’s previously released tunes, including those from their 2013 four-track EP and their two 2014 singles, plus eight new tracks.

The album’s strongest songs are the previously released ones, including “Dreaming” and “Karaoke.” New songs such as “Street Fight,” “Admission to Your Party” and “9 To 5” also stand out as memorable tracks. As is the case with most pop efforts, some of the songs get lost in the mix. When Smallpools do nail a song — which they do frequently on LOVETAP! — it stands out.

The album begins with “American Love,” a three-minute track that starts off with the relaxing sound of violins before picking up with sharp guitar riffs, enthusiastic clapping and singer Sean Scanlon’s high-pitched vocals. The song is a strong start to the album and a good introduction to the rest of LOVETAP!’s indie-pop track list.   

The album’s title track, “Lovetap!” feels like it was written for speeding down a highway on a hot summer night or for the sound track of an indie film. Scanlon’s vocals are altered in a subtle and ’80s-esque way, and guitarist Mike Kamerman’s riffs, accompanied by an upbeat synth, give the song a vintage, retro-pop vibe.

If nothing else, the repetitive lyrics are memorable enough to sing along to after the first listen, and the cheerful beats induce dancing throughout the entire album.

LOVETAP! is a solid debut work. Through the songs, the listener can feel how much fun Smallpools had recording and performing the album, which makes it a more enjoyable listen.

To hear Smallpools perform the songs from LOVETAP! live, check them out at Forty Acres Fest at 7 p.m. Saturday.