“I just haven’t been myself since you left here” is the kick-off line of Little Slugger‘s “Impossible”, the first track on I Want to Live Here Forever, and it sums up so much of the group’s nugget-filled record. Inspired by a break-up and moving to a new city, the album has no shortage of lyrics that and melodies that hammer at the heart pangs, but the Burlington-to-NYC power pop duo counterbalance this with dirty guitar solos, crunchy hooks and sky-filling choruses.
Take single “You’re On Your Own”. The track’s whimsical beat and energy build and quicken to a frenetic climax, even as they sing hard-truth lines like “She didn’t know you then, she didn’t love you then” with an Americana twang. The juxtaposition makes it impossible to feel down in the dumps, even if you find yourself singing along with a relatable passion. “Baltimore” is equally upbeat musically, even as chronicles the narrator realizing he’s growing apart from his lover and accepting he needs to move on. Featuring perfect harmonizing from Sam Bevet and Ben Chugg, even as melancholy strains through the chorus.
The group’s warm harmonies echo the best power pop bands, but there’s also clear influences of classic rock and early 00’s midwest emo. The guitar lines on “Spinning” could easily have worked on a Mark Knopfler record, while “Impossible” has the guttural singing of Cursive‘s best tracks.
The band do an excellent job of giving each song a unique flavor while keeping the record musically cohesive. Touches like the morose horns and orchestration on “I Am Aware”, or the psychedelic rave-up on “Storm” are nuanced surprises. And even when at their most throat-shredding emo on “Annabelle”, it’s preceded by toe-tapping bass and airy chorus that evolves into a western-stomp, and goes almost full-on metal with the guitar solo on the ending. And only two songs later, Little Slugger takes us back to 50’s proms and jukebox joints on “Please Come Back”, whose swooning pop rock chorus Would have been something Fonzie put on to set the mood.
The record ends with “Circling the Foam”, opening with a desolate atmosphere that becomes a sparse duet which later gives birth to sprawling, expansive post-rock. It’s a testament to the band’s versatile musicianship that they are able to tackle such various styles and sounds within single song, much less an entire record. And while the songs bleed with regret and wistful longing, the album still leaves you feeling good.
Take a listen to the pre-released songs below, and listen to the whole album on July 19th.