Small Wonder is Henry Crawford's lullaby in the indie-world. It's soothing and indelible in the way of DIY poetry. His penchant for treading the line using keyboards and electronic beats generates a neat little mainstream and alternative ensemble that's most endearing and Wendy seems like an ode to an old love. It makes for a sweet and relaxing listen.
The electronic beat that sounds like whales (yeah, believe me, it's very unconventional) adds a passionate and emotional factor come the opening "Ball Lightning." It's a subtle charm in terms of ballads and so radio-friendly in its simplicity. It's outstanding how mild-mannered structures and arrangements work for Small Wonder and with the bold, piano-ridden "Clearly Again," there are more hums, organs and alternative guitar medleys to strengthen the calm whims and fancies of Crawford. It feels like a heart's been ripped and stomped upon and it's testament to how much obsessive and delicate care comes into the songs. It's unmistakable how beautiful and fulfilling the experience is. You were breaking / And i was broken / Scratched my vinyl / And said words already spoken like / "Suddenly my seams are bursting / Suddenly my soul has escaped / Suddenly my fingers ungrasping / Had let loose all my hateful thoughts" are tenuous and burdened with torture. The clasping effect of how depressive life can be unfolds so strongly.
The record's a tad lengthy at 36 minutes or so but with acoustic influences from the likes of Elliot Smith and Nathan Hussey, and keyboard segments strewn in here and there, you have a shrewd little heartbreaker of an album. "Patron Saints of Pretty Faces" exemplify this as themes and messages are painted with folky, country and agnostic gospel influences -- the latter is what Crawford loves to use in terminology. Then I realized the record shifts a tad more optimistically. Gradually, it become less dark.
There's a storytelling vibe here a la Andy Hull that's voracious and formidable as it peers out to the brighter side of the record. It stands out despite being a bit orthodox. The calm demeanor of the tracks do remain consistent and heighten this feel. It's hard to pluck the highlight reel because they are all well-written and sung. "Until I Open My Wings" is probably the most riveting because it's stunning and escaping at the same time. Susannah Cutler adds enormous melody with her powerful vocals and the beauty comes out when the concept of the album reveals itself as Crawford's diary of love for Cutler. What a novel!
thanks to susannah. love of my life, fire of my heart. this albums for you, the epoch is now is a message he placed at the end to signal how theatrical and cinematic this experience truly was. It's tear-jerking and romantic. There's closure, hope and a shotgun pulse in this -- it's indie music to fall in love to and with. Well played, sir... Sell played. Now, just who is Wendy? That's what I'm investigating.