Small Leaks Sink Ships-Oak Street Basement EP

(Editor’s Note: This article is published here in celebration of Small Leaks Sink Ships return to our scene and the stage as well, after a near year long hiatus. They will be performing on Wednesday, August 8th at the Sail Inn. Please see the flyer below for details.)

Small Leaks Sink Ships is one of those amazing bands, who after seeing them live or listening to their recordings, life isn’t quite the same. Their music is an unreal blend of indie rock aesthetic, symphonic progressive leanings and psychosis tempered psychedelia—it’s the musical equivalent of where illicit recreational drug use meets intense pharmaceutical fascinataion. There is no excusing them for their brilliance. Small Leaks Sink Ships puts on one of the most amazing, goosebump inducing live shows available in town and the Oak Street Basement  EP is but the tip of the iceberg in the sound they present on stage. It is, however, a goddamn great tip, a great trip and a showcase of a band that is absolutely unrelenting in their sound.

The frantic and slightly psychotic opener “Pray For Pills” starts of this gem with a sound akin to the best of early Modest Mouse.  You will find yourself silently screaming to yourself or perhaps slurring and mumbling , “Pray for pills, they won’t affect me on the morning after” not long after your first fifteen listens or so to this magnificent track. It is infectious and catchy in the most unlikely, quirky way possible—not unlike the rest of their oeuvre, but this transcends space and time, somehow becoming anthemic along the way. They may seriously want to consider making a single edit of this so that it can take over the alternative airwaves from coast to coast.

Picking up from the wind down of the opener, “His Days Are Like Grass” is a comparatively easy going number awash in a dreamscape of stirring strings and echoed vocals that finds the band on a middle ground between late 90s indie rock and early Pink Floyd. That said, the results are stunningly brilliant. Their high minded symphonic notions really come to the fore here and within this single song,  we happily experience a showcase for the depth of their capabilities. It’s ironic that they sing, “Tell all of your friends,” because only after the first two tracks that’s exactly what you want to do.  “Bloom” continues seamlessly in the same vein, with more focus on intricate guitar work, breathy lead vocals and xylophone!  At this point in Oak Street Basement, the songs they play almost come off as a deeply rich abstract painting, one you can stare at for hours on an afternoon with nothing else on your mind but admiring the daring art.  “Bloom” even begins to explore  pop territory toward the end as they sing, “She has little elf ears and a keen sense of style” and you can see her and you know her.

“Glass Hypnotist” is another standout single, with hypnotic keys, dizzying guitars and thunderous drums that once more returns to a modest Modest Mouse sound—one must consider though that Modest Mouse no longer makes music like that, and for my money Small Leaks do it better anyway.  Clearly one of the most “exciting” tracks on the whole affair, it’s difficult to contain oneself while even casually listening (your body will not allow stagnation as your soul leaps for joy on this number). The postmodern lyrics of “Think of your favorite part, make sure it‘s from the heart, look around at your friends and please talk up a storm,” is mindblowing  when you consider that’s what you want to do after listening to this masterpiece. The ending washes away into a din of crowd chatter and swirling excitement that serves as something of a coda for what you have just aurally witnessed.

“Shuddersome“ carries far the opening refrain, “Don’t Be So Scared” and in some strange way it’s difficult not to be, not because this is terribly frightening, but because this is territory that no one explores anymore, as this band is left alone to discover uncovered paths that are simply not on the map. It is an unforgiving finale in which Small Leaks leaves the crowd wanting more in the wake of, perhaps, the most aggressive tune in the bunch.  It is a furiously pounding and poignant ending to a perfect release.  Oak Street Basement is simply unrelenting from beginning to end and it will become you new best friend because of this tenacity, this tenuous tightrope walk between art and madness. Think of your favorite part? All of it, from beginning to end. 

Listen To All of the Oak Street Basement EP and Purchase It As Well!
Official Website for Small Leaks Sink Ships

(Note: An edited version of this article originally appeared in the  July 2011 issue of JAVA Magazine)

Read more about what I have to say about “Pray For Pills” on today as the song of the week