This Is Me Smiling - This Is Me Smiling (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

This Is Me Smiling

This Is Me Smiling (2005)

Vinyl Summer

Chances are 9/10 that you haven't yet heard This Is Me Smiling. So if you're one of those elitist snobs who has to be able to claim they heard a band before everyone else, get on with it, because this band is going to blow the hell up.

This band has perfectly nailed just what an indie pop record should be. Terrific vocal melodies, great instrumentation that suits just the mood it needs to, and piano-driven choruses that might as well be led by Ben Folds himself. But we can't restrict this album to being Folds-esque, as it's much more guitar than piano-driven, but that same irresistible charm is there. It's a fun listen, plain and simple, and as lighthearted as things seem, there are some real somber moments, and luckily, they don't feel forced at all. No matter the tone, one element remains constant: The songs are perfectly crafted.

That's not to say the album is perfect, far from it, but on an individual basis I can find no fault in song structure, song pace, or just the overall feel of things. Be it on electric guitar, piano, or acoustic guitar, the vocals perfectly accent the point being brought across. I'm often reminded of the Shins, and the way they effortlessly glide from song to song, and though this is more varied, it bares mentioning that point. The acoustic-driven "Matter to Matter" is a standout among the other twelve songs on the album, as the feelings of regret and remorse are so clearly felt through the singer's inflection and the lyrics that make that possible. "Every spoken word is a waste of breath, every memory will be lost in death / Every induction leads to the same pretense, every conclusion seems like the best defense." Those words somehow seem to hit harder in this format, and when Jenni Choi contributes some background vocals, the previous beauty is only magnified. The strumming pattern may be extremely simple, but it just doesn't matter, the bittersweet vocals make up for all that could be lacked.

The acoustic track is only one minor portion of the album, however, as the electric guitar is used far more frequently. "Mixin' Up Adjectives" is just what a great indie pop track should be, centered on the vocals, but strongly driven by the rhythms of guitar, bass and drums. It's done perfectly; each musician in this trio gels ideally with the other, with their respective instruments each contributing just what they need to and then some.

This Is Me Smiling's possible downfall resides in the lack of individual tracks that stick out above the rest, and it's an interesting problem, especially when it's taken into account how different most of these tracks sound from each other. You won't confuse "Ephemera" with "Say What You're Gonna Say," but neither song can truly be considered better than the other. Just different, and maybe that's not a weakness at all. I already mentioned how cohesive the band works as a whole, and in the end, I suppose it's their strongest attribute. They didn't write 7 good songs, 2 spectacular songs, and 4 crappy ones, they instead opted for 13 great tracks. And I really can't fault them for that.

Beginning to end, this album will put a smile on your face. What more can you ask?