Little Big League - These Are Good People (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Little Big League

These Are Good People (2013)

Tiny Engines

Little Big League spell it out in their name for you, essentially. Their engrossing debut full-length, These Are Good People is a big statement from a small band with common and relatable but generally larger ideas. Their music lies at the crossroads of '90s indie rock, where punk's raw energy and aggression bristled against the motivation and chops to create something that sounded bigger, more complex, more worldly. Their themes highlight how the angst and romantic longing of youth never really dissipates simply because you moved to an urban area and embraced the doldrums of "adulthood."

Opener "Lindsey" feels immediate, a nimble, urgent, forward-moving slab of indie-punk with perfectly placed piano keys splayed across its intro, with frontwoman Michelle Zauner's raspy and straining but dynamic voice making a case to the title character to make a life with her. It's imaginable that a desperate plea for domestic partnership would feel this emotionally turbulent, but it's rarer how genuinely heartbreaking the story feels. There are plenty of moments like this, too, with Zauner's unfortunate realization during "Brackish Water," recalling "Macy's Day giving road head on the turnpike when I called it off when I saw what I'd become was holes and shape." It's why the six-minute-long "Sportswriting," ushered in by an abridged, Dear You-inflected post-rock crescendo (an album whose influence is felt more on the song's drifting bridge), features the record's high point chorus, where Zauner howls two versions (at least, according to the lyric sheet, as they sound the same) of a tear-inducing declaration. The second's the best: "Oh what if when the summer it comes and I still want to drive to your parents' house but you live somewhere else?"

These Are Good People will feel familiar to anyone who stumbled upon their peers in Hop Along and their cultishly adored album, Get Disowned, in 2012, but Little Big League, though possessing less skilled tools and versatility, wield a similarly immense power in directness and cunning honesty. Frances Quinlan's the usual main subject with any chatter regarding that band, and Zauner unintentionally provides a parallel as an alluring counterpart, breathy and fragile, leading the album through a seemingly unending nervous breakdown that culminates in "Settlers" ("Oh my god [sic] it's fucking sick the Stockholm grip you've got on me"). Some might argue it's during closer "Never Have I Ever Walked Away When the Time Was Right," when the music drops out and Zauner hushedly admits her fault via the song's title. But her three bandmates are nicely in tune, knowing when to turn it on during the album, when to lay off, when to dress up the moment with a little riff or twinkle, and how to keep the album rhythmically moving with a flicker of tension.

These Are Good People needs its less stressed, easier-going parts to make it work as a whole, and while they're comparative lulls amid the crushing weight of when Little Big League are more cathartically expressing how desire can be a handicap, it makes for a well-rounded and occasionally outright breathtaking affair.