LA-based trio Small Forward makes music that alletes the mind and soul. Their debut album arrives at time where we need it the most. While the band performs in the vicinity of the deflating genre of lo-fi dream-pop, we should remember good music is still good music. Just because an artist doesn't have some crazy story or some "woke" thing about them, it shouldn't dismiss them from getting the recognition they deserve. This is where Small Forward comes in—a scrappy, three-piece act crafting songs that allow listeners to feel real things while drawing from nostalgia through stark awareness and self-contemplation.
The group is comprised of songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Michael Stevenson, Rounak Maiti, and Campbell Scott. Their music evokes the times of AM Pop and guitar-driven arrangements. The self-titled record kicks off with "Bloodhounds," a track featuring bright, elastic guitars and warm vocals. It will have listeners drifting off to a peaceful, restorative locale. Up next is the synth-infused "Imagine So." The tender track explores the despair found in broken relationships. Ethereal vibes survey the scene while eliciting self-examination every step of the way. "Most of You" is a gorgeous outing from the trio. The track is soft, pretty excursion into the memories of yesteryear. While the subject matter appears to be about "not wanting to look back" at a relationship gone awry, the music still conjures up feelings that give you a sense of peace and hope.
"Delicate Days" treks along on a simple and plaintive sonic road. The psych-folk tinged effort has Small Forward moving away from the unambiguous dream-pop production they often present. According to the band, "'Delicate Days' explores a rocky relationship juxtaposed with the gentle nature of the instrumentation." Not to be cliché, but yes Small Forward has a reflective, indie-rock tune named after a girl. The song is titled "Sadie" and it flourishes with dreamy instrumentals and wistful lyrics. It's a throwback to 60s pop, which is a welcoming addition to the 10-track record.
"Trajectory" feels a bit groovier and a bit more edgy than the previous offerings. However, such as with the previous tracks, "Trajectory" puts listeners in a trancelike state with its stimulating arrangements and hypnotic vocals. "Out of Luck" is a ruminating exertion with lullaby-like guitar arrangements and meditative lyrics. The song is propelled by soft vocals and a dreamy production while contemplating the mistakes one has made with a former love. "Out of Luck" is a lyrical exercise in lamentation but the musical aspect serves as the crutch needed to get to the other side of where you want to be. It's certainly a highlight off an album with solid tunes.
The record closes out with "Can't Keep on with You," a slow and steady endeavor brimming with emotions. Enticing, pull-you-in-closer guitars come into play toward the later part of the song. "Can't Keep on with You" has you thinking about the decisions you've put off for way too long and the choices you have to make while you're still young enough to make them. Meditating and profound, the album functions as this sort of calm yet lengthy discussion on the concerns we have with ourselves. Small Forward has crafted a 10-track album that may not always push beyond boundaries, but that doesn't matter. The album can serve as a personal journey for listeners to make it from one side of their head to the other.
In an industry where the focus is "push boundaries or else you won't be noticed," it just feels dishonest, especially in crafting art. Removing trends, fads, and what's "hot" at the moment, does the music still stand up as something deemed good? Maybe that's for another time to get into, but for now Small Forward's debut album reminds you what music was meant to do all along—make you feel something within and let your imagination run wild. The music is the story and listeners are their own editors.