The Small Calamities describe themselves as “a mid-1990s alternative rock band formed in 2015.” We smile, not just because they nailed it, but because of specific artists that the Small Calamities’ heart-squarely-on-the-sleeve album “Designer Heartache” recalls.
For songwriter Charlie Wolf and his gang of many, that would include the early work of turn-of-the millennium luminaries such as Death Cab for Cutie (name-checked on the opener “Cinderella”), Jimmy Eat World, Ben Folds, Dashboard Confessional and Ben Lee. Wolf’s collection of pop and rock (with the occasional tinge of folk) offers a mix of guitar- and piano-based songs in which the songwriter unleashes a lyrical world of wonder: imagery-laden anecdotes, poison-tipped confessionals, wistful narratives, all flying past on shimmering melodies.
Wolf’s principal collaborators on the album were drummer Hayden Parker, bassists Christian Kalafut and Jim Posenhayden and keyboardists Bobby Victor and Reuben Bramanathan, but the roster of contributors to “Designer Heartache,” which was recorded across nine different studios, is formidable.
Come for “House Lights” (reminiscent of “Photo Album”-era DCFC) and the buoyant “Summer in Chicago,” stay for the poignant ballads “Plenty of Time” and “Little Cancer.” Last month, the band collaborated with painter David Flores on the “Little Cancers” video for World Mental Health Day.
It’s not 1998, but life can still be angsty, and sharply drawn songs with strong melodies never go out of style, and the album ends with a (kinda) holiday song, and “Designer Heartache” came out today.
||| Watch: The video for “Little Cancers”
||| Stream: “House Lights” and “Cinderella”
||| Also: Stream “Designer Heartache” in full