Harking back to the US indie scene of the 1990’s, Little Big League demonstrate that there is still plenty of potential for creativity and exploration within their respective genre of raw and consistently melodic indie punk. Little Big League are riddled with quirks, manifesting in the effortless interplay between the two rough-hewn guitars- but their biggest quirk is also their most appealing and fascinating, a secret weapon of sorts that elevates the band exponentially. The focal point of Little Big League is undoubtedly Michelle Zauner’s voice – stocked with idiosyncratic tics and diametrically opposed to convention, her words leap across the aural palette to startling effect. Flitting between saccharine hushed tones and almost violent projections, she freely allows her voice to break and oscillate at will- her enchanting versatility knowing no boundary and ultimately, carrying the potential to polarize the band’s listenership. It is undoubtedly attention grasping, with Zauner’s bluesey and anguished vocal histrionics sounding like Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes fame doing her best Patti Smith impression. For a mannerism that could all too easily eclipse any other aspect of a band’s output, the remaining members of Little Big League are still able to assert themselves against Zauner’s intimidating lung capacity, for the most part avoiding any notion of faceless backing band to her fascinating performance.
In true 90’s fashion, suspended above the rather sublimely orchestrated instrumentation, looms an air of resignation, of defeatism and surrender to oppressing forces that is so common in the psyches of young people whose idealism has been quashed by the brutal and inescapable Western capitalist syndrome. These Are Good People manages to pinpoint the moment of comprehension at the unrealised dreams of adolescence which, sadly, will remain an applicable point of strife for many. Despondent it may be, the gloom is not overwrought, embellished subtly in the minor key arrangements and existing as a lingering periphery that the band bring in to focus in affecting brilliance on tracks such as ‘Settlers’. Elsewhere a foreboding darkness is conjured at the intro to ‘Sportswriting’, looming like a distant wave of depression that is instantly vanished by the arrival of Zauner’s coruscating vocal- cleansing the music any denying darkness an opportunity to take hold.
Not until the closing section of final track ‘Never Have I Walked Away When The Time Was Right’ does the band loosen their well-honed melodic and often spritely fretwork with a thick dose of abrasive distortion that arrives as a slight shock after the lighter, more measured and melodically centred instrumentation.
Little Big League should be more than proud of their debut, a record of unorthodox beauty that despite remaining grounded in the defeatist attitudes and musical practices of their 90’s punk forbearers, contains some thoroughly unique elements: no less Zauner’s much lauded vocal. It’s a genuinely brilliant aural venture encapsulated within an endearingly punk production quality. Despite the lack of outright vitriol, the contempt for social realities is as palpable as any pissed off and downtrodden hardcore band could muster. Instead of a raucous bloody-faced affair, Little Big League subvert the punk penchant for superfluous anger, Zauner’s vocal harbouring an outrage beyond articulation, yet oddly understandable. Coherent in its overall vision and riveting in its execution.
4.5 out of 5 high fives!