A Small Black Thing Of Beauty

Towards the tail end of 2009, a Long Island duo called Small Black put out a self-titled five song EP of gorgeously downcast and hazy synthpop. Songs like the dreamy "Despicable Dogs" and sighing "Bad Lover" found frontman Josh Kolenik singing sweetly lolling melodies about tired love and aimlessness. His and bandmate Ryan Heyner's mini-album was beautiful and insinuating and got heard by enough of the right people before they moved on to the next thing. Now it's back.

Indie label Jagjaguar released a re-mastered and expanded version of the Small Black EP on April 27. If you're the kind of person who likes to wallow in some warmly catchy melancholy every now and then, I hope you hear it. Almost impossibly, the music sounds both deeper and more alluring than before; the synths cooler and sharper, the bass tones fuller, the drum patterns more shyly dramatic. There are definitely some '80s influences on display--"Despicable Dogs" could've played over a breakup scene in a John Hughes movie. But weird little touches--a scraping harmony line here; a distorted backing vocal there--ensure that nothing resembles mere pastiche.

A lot of music comes down the indie pipeline festooned with blog buzz. Most of it will never reach a larger audience. Not that that should be the goal, but the world is more fun when more of us are listening to the same stuff. Even though Small Black has been adopted as a cool kids favorite, I don't see why the rest of us couldn't also adopt it as our own. Its melodies are there for everyone. So are its feelings.

Ultimately, you'll determine how big Small Black gets. Take a listen. Let me know what you think.

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