You know those albums where you pop them on in the background, fail to pay attention properly and then end up thinking you don’t like them for no better reason than that you weren’t really listening in the first place? This was sort of the opposite.
In this case I had a friend round for a gin and tonic, and I was actually cooking at the time, so I just thought I’d throw on pretty much any old thing from my inbox, asking my friend not to blame me if it was shit, because it was straight out of my inbox and I didn’t really have any idea if it was going to be any good or not.
Not the most auspicious of circumstances in which to take your first listen of an album, you might think. But unlike those records which get cruelly underestimated because people weren’t listening properly, this did the reverse: it managed to stand out as being good, despite the fact that we very clearly weren’t listening properly and pretty much only put in on as background music. Despite that, after a couple of songs, I found myself thinking ‘hang on, this is really good’, and turning it up.
It’s not the sort of music to stand out, either, in the sense that it’s kind of slowish, the arrangements are fairly modest, and it doesn’t really resort to clever tricks to grab your attention. There are a couple of mental moments, where the music seems to have a brief meltdown, and songs like the excellent Shining are just a bit odd in general, but those are pretty few and far between; for the most part this is middle of the road, nice sensible music. And it’s really, really good.
Generally the music is simply enough assembled, unhurried acoustic pop songs backed with a little drums, bass and the occasional, usually quite basic keyboard parts. This simplicity and the generally casual atmosphere does lull you into a slightly false sense of security, and it takes ‘hang on, wait a minute, what did he say?’ realisations, such as that song titles like D.S.O.T.B. actually stand for ‘dog shit on the breeze’, to prod you into listening a little more closely.
The songs are brief, too, and the album moves along at a fair lick. It’s one of those that despite its undemanding attitude rewards closer listens, as there are some really nicely turned lyrics. And for some reason, despite the setup being pretty standard and the music seemingly content to abstain from anything too contentious, this album has real character. While it can deliver relatively smooth acoustic pop numbers, it can also slow into more idiosyncratic, stumbling stuff which reminds me of some of the better loved and more awkward acoustic weirdos around at the moment.
It’s disarming, and may not grab you immediately, but I think this is a really good album, and one which I fear will end up being criminally underrated by the world at large. Listen. Listen closely. And enjoy.
Niilo Smeds – I Don’t Need You
Buy direct from Bandcamp