Letting go. While the concept is easy enough to grasp, actually doing so is much harder- and that’s exactly what Los Angeles-based indie pop act Smallpools explore on their new EP, The Science of Letting Go. It sounds simple: let go of negativity and the things that are dragging you down and you’ll be much happier. But in reality, actually moving forward can be an arduous task. We become used to the things that hold us back, and sometimes the fear of the unknown is greater than the discomfort we currently face.
Smallpools first broke through with their debut single “Dreaming” and 2013 self-titled EP on RCA Records. The band later released a full-length album through RCA, 2015’s LOVETAP!, but at the end of 2016, the band and label parted ways. Since then, they’ve joined forces with management/ publishing company Kobalt Music Group for the release of The Science of Letting Go.
The EP’s opening track “Million Bucks”- which was also released as its first single- sees Smallpools vocalist Sean Scanlon reflecting honestly on his move to Los Angeles. There’s a stereotype that the people of Los Angeles are fake and unwelcoming- “Some people say there’s nothing really real here/ They paint it like a sun without a soul”- but for Scanlon, the city has made him feel “like a million bucks.” It’s a reminder that we should focus on our own interpretations and experiences, rather than relying on what someone else proclaims as the ultimate truth.
While an enjoyable and relatable listen overall, The Science of Letting Go is certainly strongest at its opening and closing ends. “DJs and Porsches” begins with heavily distorted vocals and nearly has the potential to be a pure dance track, though the EP as a whole is less production-heavy and features more personal lyrics than Smallpools’ previous efforts. On “DJs”, Scanlon falls for someone he calls “a coping device/ for another addiction”, which may not be wise, but certainly makes him feel alive. The following track “Centerfold”, with a droning intro and vocals that take a new-wave influence, is a suggestion that we all embrace- rather than hide- our failures and flaws.
Sometimes even after we’ve let go in the practical sense, nostalgia for the past keeps us from truly moving forward. “Passenger Side”, perhaps the catchiest song on The Science of Letting Go, waxes poetic about the past: “I miss those desert drives/ From the passenger side.” With that nostalgia comes a fear that nothing else will match up to what our narrator once had, and that fear is what prevents him from moving on.
Letting go is a process, and on the closer “Mother”, which begins with a mournful piano intro, Scanlon accepts that it isn’t easy. “And yeah I might miss your mother/ I fantasize about her sometimes”, he says, but ultimately decides letting go is the right thing to do: “There’s nothing left to do/ But let the waves crash over you.” The bridge features a cacophonous instrumental before returning to the piano and vocal parts of the first verse. Even when we make the choice to let go, sometimes it still hurts to leave our past behind. With “The Science of Letting Go”, Smallpools shows we can choose to accept that feeling and take it with us, and only once we do so can we let go and begin to move on and move forward.
Starting next month, Smallpools will be supporting Substream Issue 57 coverstars Misterwives on a North American tour, along with Fueled by Ramen’s Vinyl Theatre. A full list of shows is below.
Smallpools Tour Dates (with Misterwives and Vinyl Theatre):
Sept 21- Nashville, TN- Cannery Ballroom
Sept 23- Atlanta, GA- Center Stage
Sept 24- Orlando, FL- The Beacham
Sept 26- Austin, TX- Emo’s
Sept 27- Dallas, TX- House of Blues
Sept 29- Phoenix, AZ- The Van Buren
Sept 30- Santa Ana, CA- The Observatory
Oct 3- Los Angeles, CA- The Fonda Theatre
Oct 4- Oakland, CA- The Fox Theatre
Oct 6- Portland, OR- Crystal Ballroom
Oct 7- Seattle, WA- Showbox Theatre
Oct 11- Boulder, CO- Boulder Theater
Oct 14- Milwaukee, WI- The Rave
Oct 15- Chicago, IL- Riviera Theatre]
Oct 17- Cleveland, OH- House of Blues
Oct 18- Toronto, Canada- Phoenix Theatre
Oct 20- Boston, MA- House of Blues
Oct 21- Philadelphia, PA- The Fillmore
Oct 25- New York, NY- Terminal 5
Oct 27- Washington, DC- 9:30 Club