"Wide Open Spaces"
April 15, 2014 - Self-released
Tiny Empires are, in many ways, a very logical progression from Fest favorite O Pioneers!!!, who vocalist/guitarist Eric Solomon fronted a few years back. They retain his old band's loose, throaty, shouted, melodic-punk vibe, but perhaps thanks to the involvement of other experienced players (members of New Bruises, Senders and others), they're much more willing to stray outside the lines—and with three guitarists, more patient and dynamic in that area. The opener of this mini-album debut, the Hum-ish "Wide Open Spaces" begins with a familiar murmur for at least a few seconds before slinging into a stomping, burly, mid-tempo anthem (anyone who lost their voice barking along to OP!!!'s 2009 album Neon Creeps will greatly appreciate it). But let's try to at least momentarily quell those parallels: The stop-and-start chugs of "What's The Plan, Phil" are segmented nicely by a squiggly riff; "Just Imagine" (reappearing from a 2013 single on Kiss Of Death) and "Tired Hearts And Livers" hint at ’90s post-hardcore while maintaining TE's scrappy character; though Solomon's vocals seem a little low, "Air Conditioning, Full Blast" is an excellent, late standout, vaguely culling both Say Anything and Built To Spill in a weird way; and the length of nearly 10-minute closer "Blurry Photos, Dead Leaves, Decomposed" throws back to the multi-part epic the band contributed to a 2012 split with Tigers Jaw. Sure, OP!!! were on the verge of seriously mastering straightforward, gravelly, shout-along punk, but Tiny Empires are certainly making up for their abrupt end well with this more ambitious release.