I know “album reviews” are irrelevant to a streaming culture, but we gotta talk about this new Flint Eastwood E.P.
Small Victories sticks a tricky landing with unfound poise; sweeps its toe across an otherwise all too easily muddled line and backflips onto the balls of its feet, let’s talk about sincerity and message-music and let’s also talk about potent pop production and invigorating mixes of triumphal tones. Let’s talk about toeing that line: celebratory yet sobering…, anthemic door kickers and soul-pumping striders yet also with these poignant, heart-on-the-sleeve asides and vital impartations of guidance, encouragement, commiseration and sincere wisdom, which, honestly, must feel, to this generation, like the wrung-out droplets of fresh, revitalizing springrain after a season of Internet acid.
More than five years ago, when I first heard about Flint Eastwood, it was a brother-sister pair, the songwriter & performer Jax and the producer & musical mad scientist Seth. They called themselves POWER, initially… And it’s always been about that, hasn’t it? Empowerment. The wary & thoughtful & contemplative pop song that invites you to lose yourself in that dancing-like-no-ones-watching-fit that you’ve fallen into and yet bends your ear open to those confessional, relatable lyrics…the lyrics of a folk ballad but the energy of a ceiling-shaking dance-pop powder keg.
Flint Eastwood’s latest EP, Small Victories, started streaming earlier this week but it’s officially available on iTunes FRIDAY.
We’ve heard music that’s about excess, we’ve heard music that’s about telling everyone to go fuck themselves…we’ve heard music that’s about self-celebration, but this is not quite that… And we’ve heard the tragically tender and the hauntingly beautiful stuff of the 90’s and the cynical strychnine indie-rock contrivances that pocked up the post-Millennia and this stuff…Flint’s stuff…Jax’s songs…obliterates that, obliterates cynicism, obliterates any self-consciousness over being to sincere. And after it does that, then it starts to stir you to dance.
So, I just thought we should talk about all that…
And then, the actual tracks: “Find What You’re Looking For” is marvelously produced, multi-tracked vocals jetting this goosebump-bursting harmony over a subtly explosive, stop-start drum pattern hitting with primal energy; the guitars start to sizzle through the second verse and fresh percussion starts overlaying the original drum hits leading up to the bridge. This song displays a keen sense that prevails throughout the EP, a sense for stripping it all back, for giving silence vibrancy and using it to augment the breathy voice, the solitary singer, backlighting her words, almost. The poignancy punches even harder, at these points.
And the harsh fuzz around those synth keys striking at the opening of “Glitches…” The sledge slam of the drums and the tension of those bass lines… They represent the noise and anxiety of the every day, the commotion of the big media machines and the whirlwind of the cars and neon lights and billboards and oh did you see about that thing on Twitter? Glitches… And yet, “I will stay with you… I will follow you…” Through the glitches, through the distortion, through the disorientation of the senses through all the dangers real and perceived, live-threatening and self-inducing… This song might have one of the heaviest messages and thus it fittingly has the most measured tempo, a slow jam, really…in the form of a throttling electro-rock gospel thrum.
“Oblivious” opens with spaghetti-western style guitar and it harkens back to Late Nights In Bolo Ties, while Jax’s lyrics bring the dividing line between the digital and the natural worlds into stark relief, shaking you out of your complacency. With “Monster,” we need to reiterate the production’s sensibility for accentuated sparseness, with that buoyant-yet-barely-there-bass blip like a groovy heartbeat. With “God Only Knows,” we can hear the influence upon the Anderson “syblings” from having being raised in a religious household and producing their music inside churches…because it begins like a hymnal, only to metamorphose into what might be the most kinetic pop track on the whole E.P., with a percussive & synth hook that all but cartwheels into jumping-jack exuberance. And yet…those heavy lyrics…unloaded:
“This year, got a new perspective / this year, things are gonna change / I wanna talk about it / when they say: How ya been? / Where to begin? / God only knows…” Refraining… “…that I’ll be alright / I’ll be just fine.”
Sometimes you just have to unload, unpack, unwind, get it out, get it off your heart, your head… But take those heavy sentiments, those frustrations, those observations, sculpt it to the unique architecture of an electro-pop aria…
From title track,“Small Victories…”“Me and my friends / we forecast dreams that just aren’t clear…”
….but one day you will find a way…just don’t lose your head. For now, and for the foreseeable future, until you get there…wherever it is, …you’ve got to rely on small victories… (In that way, as the song surges, you’re “…a champion…”)
Now, who wouldn’t feel consoled, enthused, rejuvenated, after hearing that kind of advice, set to an irresistible beat? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously, because the cynics feel we don’t need album reviews. But I thought we should just talk about Small Victories for a second… Enjoy listening…