Little Things That Kill – Smokescreens
March 1, 2010
This band, now called Little things that kill, has been around for several years. In fact, they won the “Grote Prijs van Nederland” (Grand Prix of the Netherlands, a Battle of the Bands-like competition) in 2003. Back then they played a mix of pop and rock, sometimes semi-acoustic, sometimes with a grungy or alternative edge. Over the years their songwriting and music has matured into a more indie-like rock & roll that draws from both British Influence and American Rock & Roll. The upbeat, danceable rocktracks benefit from highly energetic performances and what is probably the band’s best quality, the build up of tension and excitement in the songs.
They are now on the verge of releasing their official debut album ‘Smokescreens’, which contains 12 strong tracks. Some of the songs are evolved versions of songs they previously played, others are brand new. And the album is a good representation of where this band is at. Recently named Serious Talent at Dutch radio station 3FM, their single ‘So Beautiful’ is getting good airplay and the band is starting to really get their name out there.
First and foremost, Little things that kill is a live band. Their live performances are packed with enthusiasm, energy and excitement. And while the songs sounds tamer on the album, you can definitely hear the potential. From the danceable single ‘So Beautiful’ to the infectious ‘Take All The Time’ to the closing ballad ‘Five Dog Night’, the band shows diversity within their genre.
He Gives, He Takes
The album starts with ‘He Gives, He Takes’ which has a very catchy intro, that immediately gets your attention. It’s a pointy, very easy-to-like, rock & roll song that gets the album off to a strong start. The lead guitar makes the tune recognizable and I wouldn’t be surprised if radio starts to pick up on this song eventually.
This is one of the band’s older songs. It has evolved from a mostly acoustic melody into this radio-friendly, danceable indie-rocker. It’s a great choice for a lead single as it contains some clever hooks and its potential to sing along to. Both melody and lyrics invite you to interact with the song and sing along. And be honest, who doesn’t love a good love song?
The band paces down slightly on ‘Push/Pull’ which has a more emotional approach. Strong lyrics and an empathic performance make this song shape up very nicely. And while it might not have that very recognizable hook it somehow has a way of drawing in the listener.
Sirens (Are You OK?)
This song, however, does sound very recognizable to me. It might be both its strength and its weakness. Because it is recognizable it’s not hard to get into the song, but on the other hand I also miss a little excitement. Little things that kills plays the song very well and the live version is quite strong, richer than the album version, but yet there’s something about ‘Sirens’ that doesn’t list it as one of my favorite tracks on Smokescreens.
While it might not be the album’s strongest track, there’s just an energy and joy in this fast-paced, danceable song that I can’t help but really, really like it. It’s upbeat, it’s infectious and the chorus is great to shout (or sing if you have better vocals than me) along to.
‘Secrets’ is another slower paced song with deeper, more emotional lyrics. It also is one of the album’s strongest tracks. In fact, I think saying this song has an ambitious, almost epic build-up would definitely be fair. And Little things that kill absolutely pulls it off. If you get a chance to see them perform, make sure to listen to their live rendition of this song. They put a lot of energy and emotion into it.
Speak Up Baby
Another song they’ve been playing for quite some time. Previously it was more of a powerballad, and frankly, I think I’m still so used to the older version I haven’t completely gotten into this newer version of the song. For some reason the timing in the older version seemed to fit better for me. Having said that, I’m starting to like this version of ‘Speak Up Baby’ better every time I listen to it, so there must be something to it.
On Your Side
‘On Your Side’ is a potential radio single in my opinion. There’s a certain tension in the build up that gets released into a what I consider to be a chorus perfect for radio. For live performances too for that matter. Because once you hear the chorus for the second time, I guarantee you’re singing along to it. The song sticks in your head and isn’t that what a radio single’s supposed to do?
Take All The Time
I’ve known this song for a little while and from the first time I heard it I connected to it. The infectious, at times angsty vocals and the relatively fast pace of the song lends itself for some old-fashioned rockin’ out. On top of that the exciting performance and strong lyrics add to the strength of ‘Take All The Time’. It’s a catchy, modern rock & roll track that, in my opinion, is one of the band’s best so far.
In a lot of aspects I feel the same way about ‘Bloody Hands’ as I feel about ‘Secrets’. The build up is strong as the song works to a climax. It’s the most ambitious track on the album and it’s a track the band can be proud of. Things fall into place on ‘Bloody Hands’, it’s a combination of good songwriting and excellent execution.
I remember hearing this song live a few years ago. It was a little slower back then but overall the feel of the song hasn’t changed that much. I liked it then and I like it still. This song might not thrive on tension or excitement as much as most of the album’s tracks but it ‘s a nice modern rock song that will appeal to the general audience.
Five Dog Night
The album ends with an acoustic ballad based on a saying that originates from the Aborigines. I admit it was not something I expected, though I knew this band has it in them. At an acoustic session at the Lowlands festival some years ago they played a similarly sensitive acoustic ballad called ‘Caught Between’ that I was very impressed with. ‘Five Dog Night’, while the sound is somewhat different, reminds me of that in the way it feels. It has the same direct connection. It’s not really what this band will be known for, but it is definitely a nice treat at the end of a very solid debut.
Little things that kill shows promise on their debut album ‘Smokescreens’. They are growing into a solid performing and recording group that is easing into their comfort zone more and more. Rightfully chosen as Serious Talent, opportunities should open up for them to develop and evolve even more, but with ‘Smokescreens’ they made the first step towards what could definitely be a long and successful career. And as I said before, you haven’t really experienced Little things that kill until you’ve seen them perform live. So if they are near you, don’t hesitate and visit their show. I promise you it will be worth your time and your money.