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- Posted on Nov 12th 2010 3:30PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
Bree Kristel Clarke
But being released from their major label deal with Astralwerks (which handled Small Sins' first two albums) proved to be the catalyst for some creative reinvention. While D'Arcy still handles all the songwriting, he decided to bring his talented bandmates (including classically trained pianist and composer Todor Kobakov, former Carnations comrade guitarist Steve Krecklo, drummer/percussionist Brent Follett and keyboardist/handclapper Kevin Hilliard) into the fold during the recording process for the first time during the studio sessions for their latest album, 'Pot Calls Kettle Black.'
And instead of endlessly tinkering with the songs as he might have in the past, D'Arcy enlisted famed Chicago producer John McEntire (Tortoise) as engineer and established a tight time limit of only a month to record and mix the new album.
That newfound openness can be heard in the lush, expansive sound of 'Pot Calls Kettle Black,' which takes Small Sins' melodic indie-rock template and shakes it up a bit more than on the group's previous releases. While D'Arcy's vocals and keen observations still take centre stage, they're ably supported by his bandmates' contributions -- layered synths, spiky percussion, and even giddy handclaps serve as the backbone for the contemplative yet often upbeat songs.
One such track that showcases all of Small Sins' virtues is the head-noddingly catchy 'Where There's Gold,' which skilfully layers so many parts on top of each other that it's often hard to tell what instrument is bobbing in and out of the mix. Underpinning the entire track is a cunning bit of insistent percussion that's coloured by an almost clavinet-like keyboard melody before a heavier synth line makes itself heard.
In fact, the arrangement is so clever that you don't even realize until halfway through that the song is actually built around a simple strummy acoustic guitar line -- when the rest of the instrumentation cuts out during a quick bridge, leaving only the guitar and D'Arcy's voice, the listener gets a glimpse into what the bare-bones demo of the tune must have sounded like, which further drives home the impact of the canny production.
D'Arcy's vocals are also stronger than ever before, with his world-weary voice lending an appropriately wry tone to the almost cryptic lyrics. "Where there's gold / Someone's always gotta go broke," he sings on the chorus. "Out of sight, out of mind / It's easy." By the time the song fades out (a device not often heard these days, but that works well here), the listener is still left pondering exactly what D'Arcy and co. are getting at -- not necessarily a bad thing, as it means hitting the replay button to listen to the infectious track all over again.