Big White Clouds’ “Small White Clouds”

Hannah Cook reviews Big White Clouds latest CD. Catch them in Macon on June 11th.

Hannah Cook

out of 10

Big White Clouds
Small White Clouds
December 7, 2010

A lovely simplicity sparks Big White Clouds’ debut full-length, Small White Clouds, both lyrically and instrumentally. Things aren’t necessarily childish, but youthful and nostalgic. The main man behind it all, Joe Solof from North Andover, Massachusetts, sings with a nerdiness to his voice, comparable to, say, Electric President. It’s modest and bashful, accompanying reverberated acoustics that create dreamy layers.

Sometimes, people fall in love, and sometimes they don’t really know what to do about it. Solof, though, with the demeanor of an innocent victim of Cupid’s bow, unveils this confusion with cutesie-putesie songs like album opener “I Know I Know.” He sounds so gosh darn adorable.

In “Afraid of the Dark,” Solof’s inner child beams through bouncy, slightly distorted guitar strums. The song is one of the more robust moments on the album, and we certainly don’t get the idea that Solof is afraid of anything while listening to it. But alas, he sings “I am afraid of the dark / scared of what I cannot see. / I don’t know who you are /  but you gave me what I needed the most.” Eventually, it becomes obvious that the “dark” is figurative, and we’ve got to embrace those blooming imaginations we once had for the full experience.

“Open Your Window” resonates most harmoniously. Solof’s voice is distant, and even a little sad, accompanying just the same in chord digressions on an acoustic guitar. Hammer ons and offs add a playful touch, but, come conclusion time, the repetition of buzzing lyrics and falsetto hums, blanketed with a weirdo distortion, leaves the listener feeling rather sentimental.

Solof started off more as a one-man band, and while he gets most of the song-writing credit on Small White Clouds, songs like “Tin Man’s Shopping Spree” and “Choir of Angels” definitely showcase how collaborative the efforts truly were, with help from friends Mike Moschetto, Mike Wolfenden and Amory Sivertson. “Tin Man’s Shopping Spree” is jovial, with delectable harmonies and banjo plucks. And all of “Choir of Angels” is dressed in fanciful layers and voices.

Small White Clouds is a sweet album that takes us back to our youth while also rendering big-people themes like love and uncertainty. As Big White Clouds’ debut album, it sets a high bar that they are bound to leap over in the future.