|THE SMALL CITIES
1. This City
3. Trust me, I am NOT a Stalker
4. I'm Gone
LEIF BJORNSON Guitar & Vocals (Tracks 1, 2)
TODD BRATULICH Guitar
DAVID OSBORN Drums & Vocals (Tracks 3, 4)
JIMMY OSTERHOLT Bass
The Small Cities are three friends from small towns around the Midwest who have all settled in the Twin Cities. The modest three piece outfit earned their wings in other Minneapolis bands like Wes Burdine & The Librarians and Realspace, and by swimming in at least three of Minnesota's ten thousand lakes. In the Fall. Their first musical offering is in the form a self-titled EP on Common Cloud Records. Though it is only four songs, each one is a world unto its own. From the reverb drenched yearnings of "This City," and the driving summer song pulse of "Fargo," to the wall of guitars that rip through the end of "Trust me, I am NOT a Stalker," and ending with the icy slow-burner "I'm Gone," the Small Cities mix it up enough to always keep it interesting. The Small Cities EP begins in the Spring and ends with Winter's thaw. A first taste of things to come.
THE RED ALERT
The Small Cities
The Small Cities EP
Record Review by Marcel Feldmar
A short little EP from this trio, and by short, I mean like 4 songs that add up to almost 20 minutes. The first piece drifts out slightly meandering and pushing a slightly alt.country slowness down some dusty highway, faint hints of American Music Club breaking against slight but very nice hints of bands like Lanterna or Scenic (drifting quietly in the backround of my mind, I’m sure). The vocals have aslight Neil Young drawl to them, but perhaps as filtered through some sort of slow Beach Boys lens. Then the dust clears and the speed picks up with the next song, a little more driving, but still holding that Americana dream.
“Fargo”, the second song, is one of thos simple songs that holds so much depth within it. It’s upbeat and happy sounding, but seems to twist a quiet melancholia in the background, and it just kind of gets you feeling good, but a little sad, and then the sadness pushes through into song # 3.
Minimalistic intro, that slowly twists out and into the open air. Something about this song (“Trust Me, I Am Not A Stalker”) just gets under my skin and crawls along with my pulse. It feels good. The beat is strong and steady, and the song is drenched in this slight sneakiness which goes along perfectly with the album title. The vocals float delicate but strong on top of the rhythm, perhaps a little Flaming Lipped, but not quite as psychedelic. Perhaps a little Kings of Leon, but without the Rock.
The last song, “I’m Gone” is soft and stretched out on a field of sorrow. I don’t want it to end like this, so sad, there needs to be something else, something I can hold on to and hope for… like a full length album?
AIDING AND ABETTING
The Small Cities
Four tunes that wander through four sides of the pop-rock sound. There's the tuneful tapper (#2), the jangle waiting to happen (#3), the morose arty waltz (#1), and the almost-ethereal summation (#4). That's all well and good.
Actually, it's better than that. The Small Cities do a great job with each of these sounds, and perhaps more impressively, the guys manage to maintain a cohesive band sound throughout. That's no small task.
An interesting set. I have no idea where this trio might find itself in the future, but I'd venture to guess it will be finely-crafted and expressively played. A fine introduction. -Jon Worley
May 10, 2009
The Small Cities
There are tons of albums out there that don't quite make it onto my radar, sometimes because it's not quite in the power pop genre, but that doesn't mean it's not good music. Here are some of noteworthy groups you might want to check out.
Sobering little EP from this Minneapolis quartet that plays intricate pop songs along the lines of The Shins or Pedro The Lion. This group has rich sound that is full of exquisite sadness and style. Every track is decent and this is a band to watch out for in the future.
The Small Cities
This short, self-titled EP by The Small Cities, who recently settled in Minneapolis is moody indie pop with plenty of light around the edges. There is enough here in little bites to make you want to hear more, which is the job usually assigned to EPs. Guitarist/vocalist Leif Bjornson's singing on "This City" and "Fargo" is ethereal but grounded. The band seems to like to hide the big moments inside subtle small ones, with simple melodies revealing themselves over repeated listens.
"I'm gone" is also an edgy, tiny-hooked track with meaty lyrics and features vocals by drummer David Osborn. The only misstep here is "Trust me, I am NOT a stalker," which, while its nerdy ambience might have been included to show the band's range, sticks out as a dud compared to the other tunes. Just when you get used to a band with heart, the tune veers us off into the pointless.
Still, three out of four ain't bad, and The Small Cities have enough heart and soul to overcome the occasional faux pax. This EP is a quiet, pensive winner, full of melody and wry observation that, if carried through consistently on a full-length, would make The Small Cities a band to keep an eye on. -Mike Wood
Despite it's brevity, the Small Cities' four-song debut proves an auspicious unveiling, the densly textured tunes swathed in pervasive emotion. The haunted, glassy-eyed gaze of the music is unexpectedly compelling-a harrowing, hypnotic sound imbued with desire and circumspect.
February 19th, 2009
The problem with EPs is that they’re never enough. Right when the album begins to hit its stride it comes to an end, leaving you wanting more. The Small Cities self-titled EP does exactly this with 4 tracks that couple distorted guitars and reverb soaked harmonies with lyrics that are reflective, dark and mysterious. “Trust Me, I am Not a Stalker” kicks off the EP with a tasty bass riff and screeching guitar that really digs a groove into the tune. It’s the strongest song of the four with cascades of crunching guitars, echoy harmonies and thundering drums.
The album’s second track “Fargo” is a reflective song about moving on. A catchy syncopated acoustic guitar bounces along driving drums as lead singer Leif Bjornson looks back at youth and the anticipation of leaving home. Perhaps Fargo? The song isn’t sonically as big as its predecessor, but it’s popier and lyrically stronger.
When I first heard “The City,” the album’s moody third track, I figured this was the song that would force me to get up and skip forward. In fact, it grows on you the more you listen to it. Its dragging beat, sparse guitar, and haunting harmonies build nicely into a steady refrain “cities grow bigger since you’ve gone” that hangs in your head as it floats into the final song. The Small Cities use space well on this track, creating a mournful sound of relief.
The overcast mood of “The City” is cleared away with the soulful final song “I’m Gone.” Maybe it’s the organ, but it has a spiritual feel with sparse drumming, glimmering guitars and soothing vocals that feel like the sunrise as you drive out of town and wave a final farewell to your city. The chorus sounds like the words you can sing in your head when you finally sever your ties and journey out on your own. As the final organ note holds through the last shred of reverb the EP comes to an end and you feel the sense of ease from leaving your small city.
Even though EPs frustrate me to no end, they are consistently solid. This is definitely the case with The Small Cities. It’s kind of like the gourmet personal pan pizza. Delicious and satisfying, but you’re still hungry and wanting more. When these guys come out with their full length, I’ll feel satisfied. -Brandon Henry
THE SMALL CITIES
THE SMALL CITIES EP
On its debut, self-titled E.P., The Small Cities presents itself as a band of small-town origin destined for big things. Ethereal vocal arrangements are perfectly placed to compliment the quiet, placid music that shines on this release. David Osborn has a certain frailty to his voice that evokes tender emotions on the AA Bondy-reminiscent track “I’m Gone.” “Trust Me, I Am Not a Stalker” is a song that sticks out the most on this E.P., but in a good way: its warm intensity lends an alternative dynamic to the band’s usually soft-spoken nature. Like a loyal friend, The Small Cities is a band that will lift you out of those dreary days and wash away any bad feelings. It carries a sound that can serve as comfort for anyone, but can only be felt when experienced first-hand.
-- Margot Buermann [February 2, 2009]
The Small Cities
The problem with being a pop band that's interested in doing its own thing in 2009 is that you run the risk of being swept into the great indie-rock dustbin, whether you belong there or not. Small Cities, out of the Twin Cities, should be able to tell you a thing or two about that.
The quartet's debut EP could easily be shuffled into the edges of the indie-rock underground without so much as a second glance. It could be that's where it really belongs, but Small Cities isn't just another Midwestern band desperately hoping to curry favor in Brooklyn and Seattle. It's a band concerned first and foremost with songwriting.
Its focus on songwriting pays off on its debut EP. The four-song set jumps sonically from intensely moody to crisp and effervescent in a way that makes the 20-minute collection a little unfocused and uneven. Wherever Small Cities land when it hops from sound to sound, it sticks its landing each time. Usually it gets a bit of help from a sense for well crafted atmospheres that perfunctory guitar-based songwriting into something more than the sum of their parts.
That's good, because spotting the parts that make that sum is too easy on Small Cities. An acoustic guitar swims drunkenly around a dismal atmosphere in "This City," begging to be linked to American Music Club or Red House Painters; it's only the high-in the mix vocals and pleasant vocal melody that save it from that comparison. Electric guitars and more persistent drums provide "Trust Me, I'm Not a Stalker" with more energy, though it seems lost in a haze of college-radio remembrances from the late '80s and early '90s that muddles and confuses the memories of everyone from Spoon to R.E.M. "Fargo" is sole cut on the EP that doesn't seem to mind jumping on the same bandwagon as every other mild-mannered pop band jostling for position on the CMJ charts. Unfortunately, it's also the best song on the EP, which casts a shadow on The Small Cities' ambitions to break from the indie-pop crowds.
This EP doesn't leave the flock of indie pop, but it sets the groundwork for The Small Cities to get it together to do so in the future. For now, we'll have to sweep them into the great anonymous catchall that is American indie rock. -Tyler Job
The Small Cities
Minneapolis based The Small Cities loves to experiment on their new self titled 4 track EP, the first track "This city" bring thoughts to The Smiths and it's quite good while the following "Fargo" sounds like a collaboration between Semisonic and The Cardigans.
The 3rd track "Trust me, I'm not a stalker" is more odd and features a really cool bass groove from Jimmy Osterholt, this song is a grower for sure and I really have begun to like it a lot.
The best track is the slow and dreamlike "I'm gone" where singer Leif Bjornson puts on a great vocal performance.
The music on this EP might not set your heart on fire the first time you hear it but give them a chance and The Small Cities will be your new friends in your stereo / iPod. -Kaj Roth
The highlight of the four-band night for me was The Small Cities. With spacey, slow-burning bass; throbbing, resonating guitars and spare drum beats, the band shows great restraint. This discipline pays off in big choruses and dizzying break downs. For four guys on a stage that don’t play flashy or loud, they make a great sound.
Being a singing drummer is always a daunting thing. It brings to mind bad wedding bands. I shouldn’t put Small Cities drummer, David Osborn, in the same vicinity of that thought though. He pulls off the feat with ease and grace, fulfilling the front man duties from the back line. The lead vocals are traded between Osborn and guitarist Leif Bjornson. Each of them has their own singing style, but they are similar enough that it doesn't sound like two different bands. When the two singers are harmonizing with each other, the songs are at their most effective. Evoking the power-pop of The Shins and Sloan, the band has a batch of songs in their live repertoire that carry the promise of their four-song EP that was released earlier this year.
From the very first song, a lucid tale of a dark, desperate hospitalization, the band showed their sense of melody and mood. The peppy 4/4 beat of "Fargo" could have easily passed as a b-side for The Shins. Its lush soundscape proved to be just as powerful live as it is on their record. In fact, in contrast to the Van Gobots, The Small Cities seemed to play with graceful, effortless skill, which put the focus on the music, not the musicians.
The set ended with "Trust Me, I'm Not a Stalker," which is one of my favorite song titles of all time. The song itself begins with a wandering, robotic bassline, which eventually is augmented by regimented drums and feedback-drenched guitars. The tale of the seriousness of you love lost was a perfect way to end the night. "For a girl like you/ You can tear a teenaged heart right through/ It's like I got you totally wrong/ One more girl for one more song," sings Osborn. The Small Cities have a way of getting into that corner of your heart reserved for swooning. They get in there and pry it open the way a good rock song can—leaving you with goose bumps and chills like a spirit has moved right through.
There's only one problem with the Small Cities's debut EP: It's four tracks long. The self-recorded, self-titled disc plays like a dream, with intricate pop structures reminiscent of a more moody Shins or slightly less moody Kid Dakota. Even the wavers in drummer David Osborn's voice seem perfectly timed to express a particular emotion: On closing track "I'm Gone," a slow-burning, blistering kiss-off, Osborn's delivery on the line "There's a whole in my heart where you stand" is painstakingly sincere. "What to do with the space in the bed, and everything that went unsaid?" The band responds in turn with echoing harmonies and a hair-raising crescendo that falls off into silence—the silence at the end of a disc that is too short and leaves the listener clamoring for more. The Small Cities celebrate the release of their EP with Black-Eyed Snakes, Mighty Fairly, and Fitzgerald. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Andrea Myers
Also on the local music scene, noteworthy CD-release shows include...a promising four-song debut from indie rockers Small Cities (Friday, Turf Club.)
There's no kind of loneliness like city life, or at least that's what can be gathered from the eponymous debut EP by Small Cities. Founded by three small-town transplants with big harmonizing abilities, the trio enlisted Romantica frontman Ben Kyle to help with the evocative EP. Even with just four tracks, it shows a nice smattering of styles, from the Semisonic-poppy "Fargo" to the Andrew Bird-ian sound of "This City," a haunting downer with the refrain, "This city's grown bigger since you've been gone." Release party is tonight at the Turf Club with Fitzgerald (10 p.m., $5). -Chris Riemenschneider
Staying in town for the long weekend?
The Small Cities: Don't let the name of this new band fool you. It may say "small," but these guys clearly think big. Massive, in fact. The four terrific songs on the trio's self-titled EP suggest some obvious influences — Low, Radiohead, Pedro the Lion and the Red House Painters among them. But the Small Cities have already made that leap from imitation to something that sounds like a signature sound of their own. Let's hope these guys have more where this came from. Fitzgerald and Mighty Fairly open. 9 p.m. tonight; Turf Club — Ross Raihala
The Small Cities perform on KARE 11's Showcase Minnesota this Thursday morning around 10:45am. Check it out here.
Local up and comers The Small Cities opened the show, playing a pretty straightforward brand of pop rock. While there was nothing groundbreaking about their style, the Cities played some pretty enjoyable tunes. Their Myspace page lists The Small Cities’ influences as “pretty much just Motorhead,” which is hilarious, as Lemmy could probably devour this band faster than a stack of pancakes (I know this having seen Lemmy eat at a Perkins in Clinton, Iowa once). I think (and hope) that they meant this to be tongue in cheek.
Their emotional vocals seemed more reminiscent of guys like Rivers Cuomo or AC Newman than the thrash metal giants out there. I was particularly impressed with the drummer, David Osborn, who seemed to be managing some pretty complex percussion arrangements in addition to vocals. Endearing too was lead singer Jimmy Osterholt’s sheepish shout out to his mother in the audience. I think that The Small Cities definitely have a bright future ahead of them here in the Twin Cities and probably other “Large Cities” as well (pause for laughter). -John Behm
With hints of Queens of the Stone Age, Cardigans and The New Pornographers, Minneapolis group The Small Cities‘ new four-track EP demonstrates a rich cadre of influences and style.
Self-produced and recorded throughout 2007 in various places around Minnesota, hopefully this is a harbinger of good things to come.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Leif Bjonson (Guitar/Vox), David Osborn (Drums/Vox) and Jimmy Osterholt (Bass) to talk about the group, the new album and a coalition of cheetahs…
You guys are from all over the Midwest. How did you get together?
Leif and I grew up together in Amery, Wisconsin. We played in bands together in high school, then parted ways for college. Jimmy and I met at college. I knew he was a shredder then, but we didn’t really start playing together until Leif moved back from Madison, and three of us converged into one, band speaking.
Is that why you named your band TSC?
Yep. We definitely have that small town pride. And I think there’s definitely that sensibility in the Twin Cities too, which is partly why we like it so much here. Plus, it alliterates.
Who are your influences?
I’m most influenced by newish stuff, thanks to my older brothers. Like, I was into “Siamese Dream” before I knew about the Beatles. I’ve been a huge Low and Radiohead fan for years now. I like melody! Even if it’s small. Jimmy was weened on metal, but now has a bit broader range, and really likes bands like TV on the Radio and Mew. Leif was raised by hippies and given heavy doses of Zeppelin, Beach Boys, CSNY, and the Beatles. Now he is the biggest music monger among us.
What’s new with you guys?
Our good friend Todd has started playing guitar with us, and that’s been great. And he and his wife just had a baby! Little Solveigh.
If TSC was an animal, what would it be and why?
A cheetah. They have a need for speed.
Tell us about the track “Fargo” off your new EP.
“Fargo” was one of the first songs we wrote together, and some of the first lyrics I tried writing in years. Started with the melodies first, and everything else came after that. It’s about growing up, and for the first time, realizing you are capable of doing bad things that can affect others. I guess it’s also a tribute then, to those days before this really occurs to you.
Tell us Showcase MN set on KARE 11 today and your CD Release show on Friday.
Our publicist lovingly set us up with Showcase MN. We’re going to do “Fargo” bright and early. Really excited about the CD release show. Mighty Fairly and Fitzgerald are playing with us and they’re great. It’s going to be really fun.
Where can people buy the new EP?
Probably easiest to buy it from our label here.But it should be in local independent record stores soon, and should be available for download everywhere on Tuesday, May 27th.
The Small Cities CD Release is this Friday, May 23 at Turf Club with Mighty Fairly and Fitzgerald.