Written by Zac Djamoos
The conceit behind the self-titled record is obvious: this is the purest distillation of a band’s sound. For Dallas’ little image, calling their sophomore record SELF TITLED makes sense. It’s their first record in five years, both a reintroduction and a reinvention. It also feels like an entirely different band. This self-titled record trades in the maximalist horn-and-string-laden indie rock of 2017’s Musings in favor of early 2000s post-punk revival and dark, ambient pop. As a result, the record feels a little more faceless than the band’s previous work.
The rise and fall of the opener “Ego” is an auspicious start. While it doesn’t tap into the same symphonic ambiance that elevated Musings, it has a similar swell to it, layering ominous synth lines atop one another as the track builds to a rousing hook. But unfortunately, little else gestures towards this level of grandeur. Instead, we get tracks like “Ballet,” which cribs a chorus melody from Imagine Dragons to underwhelming effect, or “Runway,” which aspires to be a radio hit but instead feels closer to a middle school dance throwaway. The worst offender is the sub-1975 “Out of My Mind,” where jarring is an appropriate substitute for quirky. The song employs a grating, semi-shouted style of staccato vocals, which sounds awkward over the more fluid, beat-heavy music behind it, making for a baffling single choice.
On occasion, though, the band is able to wring a powerful melody out of their staid indie pop—for the most part, when the band dials things down is when they’re at their best. With the exception of the dull “Makeup,” which drags a single melody out over two and a half minutes, little image’s strength lies in their competent balladry. “Clean” mixes a danceable beat with a slow, swinging synth line, and the understated “Blue” is infectious. “Worth It” is a slow drip of layers over its sneakily effective hook. Although “New Lovers,” which follows “Worth It,” serves mostly the same role—a slow-burning ballad that increasingly gets fuller and fuller—it’s yet another standout, a track where the band’s more theatrical side reemerges.
“Lungs Burn” exemplifies the record well: its verses are fairly rote post-punk, the things a dozen New York twentysomethings wrote in ‘03 after they first heard Is This It, but the hook is impressive, a feat of vocal acrobatics that would catch any listener’s attention. When the band’s dialed in, the results are great. When they’re not, they feel like any other pop group to emerge in the past decade in The 1975’s wake. There’s nothing wrong with changing sounds, growing as artists, aspiring to make pop music, anything—the problem is when you give up something that made you unique, you end up sounding like everyone else.