Right now, on the basis of Weird Headspace, Tiny Empires is my favorite band. In a bitchy-reviewer sea of musical malaise, hearing something I love is like a blowjob, a beer, and a burrito on a rainy day. Its a taste of perfect in a sea of grey that I’m struggling to not oversell.
Tiny Empires is made up of members of a bunch of other groups, most noticeably New Bruises and O Pioneers!!! The band itself sounds like the type of gritty emo Title Fight makes these days with a dose of Fugazi, indie rock, and giant melodies. Most importantly, coupled into its DNA is a sense of dynamic musicianship that laces up every punch with a mercury filled glove. It kicks hard, but never loses its meditative perspective. Weird Headspace is their debut album, although its track listing reads closer to that of an EP, the six songs on it are sublime either way.
The album opens with the deep rumbling chords of “Wide Open Places.” The chords are soon accompanied by crooned vocals singing the massive hook of “move closer, to the places that you wanna be. Stop making, making excuses.” The song then ratchets up the intensity into a frisson inducing refrain with loud guitars and bellowed gang vocals. What I love about Tiny Empires is that they can bring you a sense of immediacy with their music that’s hard to ignore. There’s no ignoring them, when they get going, you’re there with them, feeling every syllable.
“What’s The Plan, Phil” has shades of Fucked Up style progressive hardcore, which oddly doesn’t feel at all out of place. In a lot of ways it feels like a natural extension of their sound. Tiny Empires has a lot of great musicianship throughout it, the bouncy, driving riff from “Could You Imagine” being a specific luminary. It can’t be overstated; its the combination of stellar songwriting and musical intrigue that gives Weird Headspace a sense of vitality so lacking in many of their contemporaries.
My favorite song from the album, “Air Conditioning, Full Blast” opens like a lost Fugazi track with a lot of bass and sparse, trebly guitars. But it swells into screams and power chords as it desires, sending shivers up the spine while giving its words a bayonet. Its alternately soft and intense, a balance Tiny Empires pulls off well. The final song, the nine minute and thirty-seven second “Blurry Photos, Dead Leaves, Decomposed,” is a lot like a grand encapsulation of all that makes Tiny Empires, and by extension Weird Headspace great. Distorted chords give way to funky basslines, and lethargia gives way to pure energy. And then when you think it all subsides and there’s only distant percussive strums, it erupts into a loud and messy attack. The song moves through enough tones and ideas to make it exhilarating all the way through, as if the band set out to write a song that deserved every second of its runtime.
I love the way Tiny Empires makes me feel. I’m hanging on every word, thrilled by every crescendo like a seventeen year old hooked on Against Me! When I’m listening to it, work and responsibility are the furthest things from my mind and I’m the same kid that got chills from the chorus of “Walking Is Still Honest. The screams reverberate through my body, and while I don’t know every word, I feel like I need to, because anything that can make you feel that good deserves to be understood.