Here we are, near the end of July, and thanks to The Little Ones, we finally have an album that makes it feel like summer has arrived. Chock full of sunny pop confections, it seems they’ve found a way to bottle the perpetual summer of their native California, and gift it to us in the form of their debut full length, Morning Tide.
For a while it seemed like The Little Ones might not even make it to the album stage. Despite 2006’s glorious Sing Song EP, they parted ways with their label, leaving fans to wonder what was to come. In an age when music is instantly available after a few clicks on your laptop, and today’s ‘it’ band becomes yesterday’s news nearly simultaneously, it can be hard to sustain interest even in worthy bands.
There was always the chance that if The Little Ones did finally put out a full length, the memory of Sing Song might be pushed too far back in people’s minds. Then, there is the worry that too much anticipation could inevitably lead to disappointment. Luckily for us, The Little Ones ability to write cheery, melodic, pop gems trumps label troubles, and Morning Tide should expel any lingering doubts.
Title track Morning Tide opens the album. Complete with “do do do’s”, “la la la’s”, and the image of a lone figure watching waves break along the shore, it’s a perfect way to fold the listener into their warm and welcoming world. Ed Reyes sings “I’ll be waiting, waiting, waiting for you here/on the shore I’ll be waiting for you.” He may as well be speaking directly to us, waiting for us to join in the frolicking with him and his band.
For anyone first enchanted by Sing Song, favorite songs off this album will include Boracay and All Your Modern Boxes. The former captures the exuberance of an island holiday. If you can’t find time to actually get away, this might well be the next best thing – it even comes with a hint of steel drums in the background. The beautiful harmonies of All Your Modern Boxes make it not only an album highlight, but their best song to date. The joyful guitars compliment the tenderness in Reyes’s voice, each continuing to build and swell as the song flows towards its gentle conclusion.
Morning Tide also has The Little Ones exploring some new territory. They’re not straying too far off the path; all their songs retain a lighter than air feeling and whimsical sensibility, but they’re trying their hand at slower, quieter numbers, with mixed results. Waltz sounds something like the love child of Fleet Foxes‘ Ragged Wood and The Beatles‘ Golden Slumbers, yet it isn’t as sure of itself as either of those songs, so it ends up falling short.
The slower songs do have the effect of balancing the album. Even some of the upbeat tunes, usually The Little Ones’ strength, are sometimes in danger of veering from endearing into cloying. The most egregious example of this is on Rise and Shine, which sounds like nothing so much as Rick Springfield meets Kidz Bop.
Their other flirtation with quiet is on Farm Song, which they chose to close the album with. Farm Song, staying true to their sound, succeeds far more than Waltz does. Rather than borrowing from other acts, it is a slow version of what they do so well sped up. That is, pastel coloured candy for your musical soul. Enjoy your summer.