LA-based Smallpools have been making big waves with their four-track eponymous EP, and they’ve done it again with the single “Killer Whales,” released Tuesday. Smallpools are one of my favorite new artists, sporting a stadium-status, optimistic kind of synth rock that packs a punch and always makes me smile. Their standout feature, however, is the ability to develop songs with complex lyrics that inspire creative storylines and deeper thought. Previous songs like the Hype Machine chart-topper “Dreaming,” “Mason Jar” and “Over & Over” are clever masterpieces that display the powerful effects of music and lyrics when they’re in sync with each other. Consider how the lyrics to “Over & Over” effortlessly paint an entire scene:
It was a company event / With a margarita tent
I said “how’s your week?” / She said “man I’m spent”
And I could use a crazy night / And I would love to see Chennai
We could commandeer a little plane and fly
Or we could just skip stones in the shade
“Killer Whales” is the indie rock band’s fifth official studio recording – as they announced themselves, this release ups their catalog “by 25%.” It comes as a free SoundCloud download amidst the hype of the band’s upcoming debut album. “Killer Whales” retains Smallpools’ signature synthpop/rock sound, mixing in a more pronounced dance beat that proves yet again that this band is more than capable of making catchy music. Singer Sean Scanlon sounds better than ever, flexing a deeper and fuller vocal tone than previously exhibited while continuing to make tasteful use of those earworm whoa-oh-ohs. If you like Van Halen’s 1984 classic “Jump,” then you’ll like “Killer Whales” – consider it a thirtieth anniversary celebration of the synth tones we have come to know and love.
As for the song’s message? “Killer Whales” is deceptively introspective, providing another Smallpools full-length story behind expressive lyrics. Plain and simple? It’s a breakup song – the prechorus/chorus reads:
You called to say… Can you live with my mistakes?
‘Cause you are the one they spoke about
I never believed I’d make it out
You weren’t around for quite a while
Were you saving all the killer whales?
Dig a little deeper, however, and we find that subtext reigns supreme. The “killer whales” subject matter seemed very passé and out-of-the-blue to me at first, but that’s just the point – what was the narrator’s lover up to during those absences? Was it something as far-fetched and ridiculous, yet selfless (or at least cause-worthy – think Britta Perry from Community) as saving killer whales?
Let’s bring it one step further, because this is more than just a breakup song. It finds the narrator speculating on the effects of love and loss. The finality of the breakup is in flux – what does the repeated post-chorus shout “Save, save, save!” refer to, killer whales or a failing relationship?
The narrator continues along the breakup path, entering the soul-searching, self-analysis phase toward the song’s end. The bridge hosts a brooding moment of introspection that each of us romantics has felt at one point or another:
I am afraid I was made to be able to fall apart
And disconnect like so
I keep my chest locked tight till the minute you come around
How did you reach my soul?
On the surface, “Killer Whales” is a happy song that you can dance to, sing along with, and enjoy in most any scenario. Underneath this happy synth-driven music is a deep cry, an attempt for closure, and a story captured forevermore in song. Bravo, Smallpools.
Listen to and download Smallpools’ “Killer Whales” now and see for yourself!
For fans of: Walk The Moon, Neon Trees, The Killers, 1980s Van Halen
^ w/ Magic Man and Panama Wedding
08/02 – Chicago, IL @ Lollapalooza
10/14 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
10/16 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
11/12 – Houston, TX @ HOB ^
11/13 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s ^
11/14 – Dallas, TX @ HOB Dallas ^
11/16 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom ^
11/17 – Anaheim, CA @ HOB Anaheim ^
11/18 – San Diego, CA @ HOB San Diego ^
11/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre ^
11/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent ^
11/23 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom ^
11/24 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre ^
11/25 – Vancouver, BC @ Venue ^