THE LITTLE ONES with SMALL SINS and HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (November 24). $8. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Listening to the effervescent indie-pop songs of the Little Ones without thinking of the Shins is every bit as difficult as writing about them without mentioning the Shins in the first sentence.
It's more than just their shared knack for knocking out insanely catchy tunes with clap-along choruses that stick with you for days. It's the whole sensitive-indie-boy package, which includes the cute handle and the even cuter cartoony CD sleeve art.
But something tells me if the bright young men of the Little Ones were worried about people not being able to tell their shit from the Shins, they probably would've hired someone other than former Sub Pop art director Jesse LeDoux - who did the Grammy-nominated artwork for the Shins' Chutes Too Narrow disc - to design the sleeve for their own snappy debut, Sing Song (Astralwerks) EP. And these Silver Lake sharpies certainly would not have asked LeDoux to spread even more of his signature colourful tweeness over a series of three 7-inch singles Heavenly is releasing in the UK, which jointly form a larger image when laid side-by-side.
I'd wager that Little Ones main men Ed Reyes and Ian Moreno are more concerned about nosy bloggers digging up their teary emo past in the Sunday Best, the poor man's Promise Ring, than they are about any accusations of unsavoury Shins jackery.
"We just happened to have a friend who knew Jesse," explains singer Reyes from his Silver Lake hideout, "and we all thought it would be awesome to have him design the sleeve of the EP we were working on. When we got in touch with him, he asked us to send him some rough mixes of what we'd been recording, because he likes working with bands he enjoys. Lucky for us, he liked our stuff, and he knew we were pooling all our money together to put out the Sing Song EP, which we originally released ourselves at the beginning of the year, so he gave us a nice discount.
It's also fortunate for the Little Ones that their new Astralwerks business partners had the good sense not to mess with the artwork or the sweet tunes on their Sing Song EP, brilliantly recorded by former Mighty Lemon Drops guitarist/songwriter David Newton (anyone who digs the Embarrassment and 14 Iced Bears can't be all bad) and issued the hot number last month essentially as is.
Also good news is the fact that the Little Ones have been given the green light to record their debut full-length with a producer of their own choice, rather than getting locked in a studio with some dude who engineered a track for Evanescence.
"When we were discussing labels, we never really saw ourselves as an Astralwerks band, or at least we didn't see how we fit in with other upper-echelon Astralwerks artists like the Doves. But they've been trying to diversify their roster with bands like Phoenix, so we thought they might be OK.
"The great thing about Astralwerks is that they gave us the creative freedom to do exactly what we wanted. Sometimes people at labels have a tendency to tell their new bands which direction they should go and who should be brought in to oversee the sessions. But when we asked to work with David Newton again, they said, 'Sure, do whatever you need to do' and let us work, which was cool."
Sounds like a winning strategy, especially if the combination creates a few more feel-good swingers on the level of Lovers Who Uncover, the sort of stone-cold classic you wish were played on commercial radio all day long but never is.
Even though it took them seven months at Newton's Rollercoaster Recording studios in lovely Burbank to produce the seven tracks on the Astralwerks release of Sing Song, creating Lovers Who Uncover, as is usually the case for works of such pure pop perfection, wasn't at all labour-intensive.
"The funny thing is that Lovers Who Uncover took us only four or five minutes to write. It came together so easily, I was, like, "Is this something we should keep?' We had about 10 songs in various stages of completion, so we wound up picking the ones we thought were most ready, and Lovers Who Uncover made the cut. It's a good thing, because that song has taken on a life of its own."