This Is Me Smiling - Only Uphill
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: November 12, 2010
How does one go about finding a band like This Is Me Smiling? With absolutely no publicity, promotion, and a fan base probably consisting of family, friends, and friends of friends, This Is Me Smiling is no supergroup driven by starpower.
It took me one wild youtube journey, each new video immersing me deeper and deeper into the indie scene. Every three minutes I found myself squinting at a new foreign band name, and trying to interpret a new song with strange sounds. After hours of relentless digging, I finally stumbled upon This Is Me Smiling. Since they were an obscure band deserving of more spotlight, I decided to pick up their album for free on their website.
It was a choice I have yet to regret. It is 77.5 MB in my iTunes library that I won't consider deleting. The forty minute exploit is, indeed, an enjoyable one.
With a name already indicating some buoyancy, This Is Me Smiling generally takes an upbeat, vivacious approach to their music. This album is no exception. The band is unfaltering in its ability to produce playful tracks. The album employs catchy tune after catchy tune, as very track explodes out in a fiery frenzy of bliss and glee. Even tracks given an air of glum can't help but incite some sort of smirk. It's plainly an enjoyable album, by an enjoyable band.
Although the tone of the album can be easily defined, the sound can easily evade categorization. The band shuffles between country-esque quitar licks on “Losin’ It More” to jumpy piano-rock on “Nothing To No One.” From synth driven bass on “All I Wanted Was A Cigarette” to the ballady, rhythmic piano of “The Thought of You.” From the clumsy half-sung, half-spoken vocals of “The Movies” to... well... you get the picture. The piano asserts itself as a prominent tool in this album, and contributes to what makes this album so fun to listen to. Coupled with a moaning guitar, a shrieking guitar, a sullen base, and a booming drum, the piano propounds itself as the elegance and the perkiness of the album, essentially tinging the album with frisk and jocularity.
The album maintains a sense of homeliness and familiarity with the prominent use of acoustics as well. The balance between rustic acoustics and the fuzz of electric is one of perfect proportion. Generally, this balance contributes to the album’s heights, especially the mid-placed “Losin’ It More” and the openers “Hiding,” and “Nothing To No One.”
Meanwhile, Dan Duszynski remains flawless in his delivery and his voice, although nothing extremely unique, composes itself with a modicum of suaveness and grace. He continues to make claim that life well... its complicated. A protruding theme of the album seems to suggest that life is dotted with moments of confusion, paranoia, disappointment, resentment, and it’s consistently only uphill (Hey! That’s the title of the album!). Duszynzki sings “Once a long time ago it was easy to laugh and the days went slow / They kind of bounced along, took you by the arm/ Then came the awkward task of impressing the people who never asked/ You gotta do your dance, hope they see the charm/ You’re noting to no one, something to someone” on the second track “Nothing To No One.” He paints his insecurity in “Losin’ It More” with a tirade of questions “Do they talk bout me like there’s something I can’t see?/ Are they thinking of me with their present company?/ Am I playing a part? Am I making some great art?/ etc...” whilst answering each with ultimate apathy “I don’t care.”
The album seems to reach its peak midway, and continually die down into the concluding “Manage To Manage Yourself.” Slightly deviating from the rest of the album in terms of sound, it ices the album in a breezy, somewhat blithe, finisher. Duszynski coos “If you can manage to manage yourself/ Through all the sickness and optional health/ If you can pick your feet up when you walk.” The prevailing last seconds escalade into a reverb-intensified brawl of drums, finally calling the listen to adjournment. Well... excluding the final 30-second hidden track in the vein of “Her Magesty.”
For the most part, this album simply works. There are no huge philosophical statements, or a colossal, mind-blowing departure from other indie groups. However, This Is Me Smiling is talented enough to shirk the cliche sticker, and is able to create a uniquely entertaining listen. For these reasons, Only Uphill and This Is Me Smiling is a win for obscure myspace-fueled bands. Well... I guess I have to return to my youtube saga...