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The Shrinking Islands | In The Black Carpet

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R.E.M. The Feelies The Soft Boys

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United States - Mass. - Boston

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Pop: Folky Pop Pop: 80's Pop
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In The Black Carpet

by The Shrinking Islands

Warm yet jangly pop... Chiming melodies and hard-working drums.
Genre: Pop: Folky Pop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Native Light
2:32 $0.99
2. Big Nature Comes Back
2:10 $0.99
3. The Secret Activities Begin
3:53 $0.99
4. State Fair
3:26 $0.99
5. Swallowed In Grace
2:38 $0.99
6. Bad Company
3:38 $0.99
7. In The Black Carpet
3:26 $0.99
8. They Don't Watch Me
2:31 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Shrinking Islands formed in Cambridge, MA after guitarist/songwriter Kyle Bittinger handed drummer Andy Tefft a CD of his previous project, the epic and since reformed Casio-pop unit Harm. Compared with this 80's-technology excess, The Shrinking Islands represent a drastic simplification and return to original form. They use a clean guitar plugged directly into the amplifier. Arpeggiated high notes float above chiming melodies, while understated drum-work is suddenly undermined by crashing odes to Keith Moon. Minor chords come and go, cloaking the moment with a mysterious gravity.

Maybe the first thing you'll hear in The Shrinking Islands is that they're jangly. Yes, in that late-80's Feelies kind of way, or in that produced-by-Mitch-Easter kind of way. The instruments are clean and bright. The drums are working hard. The pop hook rules the day. Early Yo La Tengo, early R.E.M., The Bats, and The Soft Boys all come to mind. But not ones to paint themselves into a corner- and both painful prog nerds- the group are known to bust out King Crimson and This Heat covers when they kick it live.

The "In The Black Carpet" series of songs have a story to them: a kind of "Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)" for the clogged highways and pastoral back roads of New England. A spy has been pulled into his final assignment, feet dragging. The songs describe the return of his nemesis, the closed-doors meetings, tapped wires, smuggled cargo, remembrance of deceased friends. Amidst the simplicity there is much to decipher lyrically. The band set about recording the songs at MIT's WMBR live studio, where Bittinger is an engineer. His resume includes notable releases by Boston indie-pop stars Pants Yell! and Ponies In The Surf.



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Green miles on parade
So what does The Shrinking Islands sound like? To borrow a line from "State Fair": "green miles on parade," or feathery guitar arpeggios, rolling, melodic basslines, thwacking beats, yearning, vulnerable vocals, slippery lyrics that seem to evaporate in the sun. The first two verses of "State Fair" are diffident, close-to-the-chest feints before the band punches out the walls, opening the song in an expansive, extended instrumental of blue skies, brown, snaking roads and hills that march to infinity. "Swallowed In Grace" is a more conventional verse-chorus-verse pop composition, with a first-rate earworm of a melody. Once heard, you can't shake it.

Indie Pages

If you're a sucker for 80s jangle-pop, this record is just for you!
This is the first release from this Boston duo, and it's definitely a promising start! Although only a guitar/drum two-piece in a live setting, this record has a full sound with layers of acoustic and electric guitars and rather melodic bass lines (which makes me wonder how these songs could possibly be pulled off in a live setting). The album's first song, "Native Light", is a sleepier ballad that sets the wrong tone for the record (and might've been well suited for a closer), while the rest of the songs are jangly delights, with a strong resemblance to early R.E.M. (noticeable even in the vocal style sometimes), the Bats or the Hang Ups, as well as their peers, Pants Yell!. They're all fairly calm and easy-going throughout, although they let things rise above a simmer once or twice in their codas. If you're a sucker for 80s jangle-pop, like I am, then this record is just for you!

Erasing Clouds

Substantial music... music that lingers.
On their 8-song album In the Black Carpet, the duo The Shrinking Islands plays earnest pop/rock streamlined down to the basics: a guitar, some drums, and a singer painting portraits and telling stories. These songs vividly do both, while also capably conveying a tone of consideration, reflection. They play briskly, brightly at times; slowly and ruminatively in others. Both styles are fetching in their hands. Certain lyrics stand out for how evocative they are, the way they bring out feelings and/or images in a direct yet indirect (un-obvious) way. My brain keeps catching on the "When the street lights line the clouds" image of "The Secret Activities Begin," and a later song's chorus "We're getting swallowed in grace." There's a light-as-air feeling about In the Black Carpet, nice like that. But it's substantial music too, music that lingers.