Album Review: Big Little Lions – Just Keep Moving
Let’s not mince words, shall we? I love this album. It’s robust and beautiful in so many ways, I sort of struggle to even comprehend it. I told my wife last week that Big Little Lions are the band that you’d create if you were actually TRYING to make a band for me. I mean there are the harmonies and sense of melody of Relient K, the jangly folk fun of The Oh Hellos, and the addictive fun of the entire new/indie folk movement. I mean the opening track has a whistling solo for goodness sakes. They are Paul Otten and Helen Austin, a songwriting duo who came together working on a JUNO-award winning album. They’ve been winning awards ever since and we can here why!
Actually, stylistically they are most similar to The Oh Hellos, who you may remember I freaking love. The opener “Fills Me Up” talks about the things in life that give us energy and keep us moving. The repetitive nature of the song fits the band’s style perfectly, allowing for gang vocals, hand claps, and whistling to create just the right kind of vibe. Then the second track “What If” creates an entirely unique feeling that is a bit more sophisticated, a bit more Fleet Foxes and a bit less jangly folk. Although there are some electric guitars in the mix to keep it honest, it has a different sort of composition. I like it in a different way, but I like it just the same. The message, too, seems a bit more dark and imploring, which suits the intellectual twists and turns in the album.
“Sounds Like Home” is literally a phrase I’ve used often on this website. I associate music so much with my home that it’s impossible NOT to think about it. The song brings back hand claps again along with these duo vocals that make you just feel so happy. The images the song conjures are so light and bright, I don’t even know what to say. There’s even a kind of Edward Sharpe feel to it (not just for the use of the word “Home,” either… maybe it’s the hippie vibe). “When you say hello it feels like home.” There may not be a more loving lyric written this year.
“In Quieter Times” slows things down a bit. Actually the acoustic guitar might be the star of the track, although the vocals are exceptional. For whatever reason, it makes me feel like I’m out in a big desert looking up at a million stars. It’s a good place to be. The title track “Just Keep Moving” follows with a heavy, syncopated beat. It feels like an urgent song with a gripping message. The harmonies have the semblance of being accorded for purpose, moving toward something important. There are handclaps and something akin to adventure brewing in the track. It makes me think of a safari, but it’s probably just about something like life. 🙂
“Unglued” strips things down again. The song feels small but still meaningful. It is, in a word, intimate. “I start to see you and you can see the echoes.” That might feel a bit cryptic, but it’s definitely the kind of intimate communication not meant for all of us. The “this house” harmonies are, perhaps intentionally, reminiscent of CSNY. It’s a beautiful song, really, start to finish. “Say Hello” is another stellar indie pop tune. Again the harmonies steal the show, but there are two understated elements on this one, the percussion section makes itself known, and the subtle piano is perfect. The song wouldn’t work without either one of them. It’s just a wonderful song that, even by itself would be worth your time, but when tied into the full album it becomes more powerful.
Okay so there really aren’t any skip tracks on this album, but I’m going to have to skip a few to keep this review reasonable. “Our Space, Our Time” feels like a divergence from the norm, so I’ll talk about it for a minute. Although the composition of the band is the same, but the sound is a bit bigger, more open, like the band decided to let it rip a little more. It’s another searching, exploring song. The harmonies are solid yet again, but it’s the sense of self identity, “this is our space, this is our time,” is not about a generation or a nation, but actually a home. It’s endearing, really.
“In Spite of It All” is a fighter’s song. I really like it. “I make it in spite of it all” is a seemingly simple lyric that really seems to transcend the track. It’s a little pop, reminding me of the old Jimmy Cliff classic, “I can see clearly now.” The final track, “Underneath,” is an exceptionally sweet way to end the album. It’s softer than some of the other tracks. The female vocal sounds a bit more mature than other tracks. The duo sounds a bit more honest, a bit more authentic. It sounds like a confessional, personal, moving portrait of the night. It sounds like it could be in a musical as the piece that brings together to key characters. Maybe it is.
I think this is a great album that is just flying right below the radar. I hope that more people will give these talented musicians their due. There are several potential hit songs on this album that just need to get the proper airplay. I have a hard time picking a favorite. I put the album on my top of the year list and can’t wait to hear more from Big Little Lions.