"Indie-pop" seems to be the word these days, with bands like Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie signing to major labels and being featured on The OC. I don't think I've read any reviews of indie-pop Seattle sister-duo Smoosh that didn't include the words, "Jason McGerr," "novelty," and/or "young." And this one probably won't be much different.
It seems like everyone in the indie rock community is waiting around and holding their breath for Asya and Chloe (ages 14 and 12 respectively) to get a little older and become the saviors of youthful spirit in rock music. The girls can write a really good pop-rock song. And what's even better is that they do it with a ton of gusto and enthusiasm, as if they can't feel the aforementioned indie rock community breathing down their necks and watching their every move. Or they feel it and they just don't care.
If you (like me) were ever skeptical or curious about Smoosh before actually having heard their music, start by having a listen at albumâ€™s opening track "Find A Way," which greets the listener with a loud distorted guitar coupled with Chloe's confident drumbeat and some "na na na"s on the side. It's pop and rock living in perfect harmony (no pun intended). Then skip over to the bouncy piano-pop of the title track "Free to Stay," which sounds like The Like for the under-15 crowd. "Waiting for Something" brings it down a notch and shows Smoosh at its most mature with Asya singing, "I don't know why I do these things/I always regret them in the end." The girls experiment with rhythm changes in "Clap On," one of the album's best songs. While Chloe beats out a rhythmic and catchy swinging drum pattern, Asya asks: "How do you live sometimes when you're talking out of your mind? How do you sleep at night when you're drowning in all those lies?"
Free to Stay is a fun listen up to about the halfway point, where the bright piano tone gets tired and you start longing for some more guitar crunch to fill the sound out around the edges. Even so, it's still a relief to hear a band use the piano for something other than plaintive break-up ballads (Chris Martin, I'm looking at you). And sometimes the lyrics jump out and get you when you least expect them to and you forget that they were written by a 14-year-old.
Smoosh are fun and moody and they can rock out and be serious all at the same time (just like real teenagers!). They might not swoop down from the depths of Death Cab's drummer's music school and liberate the music world from bad alternative rock radio and obnoxious pop singers. But then, they are on tour in Europe with the Eels, and Cat Power has already covered one of their songs. It's possible that in a few years we'll all be mangling Jason Schwartzmann's immortal question from Rushmore: "[They] saved [music], what did you ever do?"