Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
Thomas D’Arcy has always been somewhat of a Billy Corgan–esque control freak; every Small Sins release until now has been his own baby and no one else’s, composed and recorded strictly by his lonesome. So it was presumably with great hemming and hawing that, after a three-year hiatus, he finally let his live band in on the creative process for Pot Calls Kettle Black. Take some notes, Billy; this is the electro-pop outfit’s most organic and melodically blissful album yet.
With the Midas touch of revered Chicago producer/Tortoise drummer John McEntire, Small Sins’ razor-sharp pop hooks shine brighter here than ever before, eschewing the lo-fi brittleness of past releases for lush, crystal clear sonics. Things start off all grown and sexy with the synth-soaked neo-soul of the title track (streaming to the right), which resembles an early Air tune enhanced by tender vocal harmonies and a stuttering, electronically tinged drum beat. Then, we’re taken straight to the dancefloor with the sultry, k-os-assisted robo-funk of “Déjà Vu” and quirky nerd-disco of “Never Again.” But things get downright melancholic, too; the acoustic-based “You Will Lie” is a cynical, spacey heartache anthem, while “Everything You Need” channels disenchanted, Pink Floydian comfortable numbness, replete with delay-laden guitars, spaceball synth effects and D’Arcy’s laconic Gilmour-ian drawl.
For such an uncomplicated record, Pot Calls Kettle Black traverses a wide array of moods, simultaneously compelling listeners to shake their asses and pass out next to their stereos. It’s pop music with proggy ambitions. At their core, though, these are easily accessible tunes based around earworm melodies, sparse in arrangement but aggressively parasitic. Small Sins is no longer a one-man band, but this is the sound of D’Arcy’s vision fully actualized.