all boy/all girl is an abstract chamber-pop act based out of New York City. The band recently contacted me, asking if I could review their debut album Tiny Iglesia. I was floored when I received a beautiful green marbled LP and a lovely hand-written letter from the band (they were obviously after my heart). So here my friends is all boy/all girl. Enjoy.
This band is neither all boy or all girl, they are a collection of both.
With a total of seven members in all boy/all girl, the band incorporates a vast amount of different instruments and sounds on Tiny Iglesia. Viola, cello, trombone, trumpet, ukulele, bongos, and upright bass all have their moment to shine, but together create an interesting pallet for vocalists Danielle Lovier and Jessie Rogowski to harmonize over. The tribal like drums on “Animal” fit nicely with the song’s primal theme, and the plucking viola strings on “Burundi” make the song pop.
On songs like “Fall” and “Algorithm” the instruments seem to play around with each other, morphing the progression of the tracks, surprising the listener with the numerous changes. In “Algorithm,” the song starts with smooth jazz guitar and trumpet, but quickly evolves into a punchy hook that could have come out of the musical Chicago. It’s a definite highlight on Tiny Iglesia.
However, what Tiny Iglesia has in musical dynamism, it lacks in other areas. For instance, the vocals on “Animal” don’t match the intensity of the lyrics or the music: they’re more of a purr than a roar. With “Fall,” the vocal melody during the chorus is slow and repetitive. Unfortunately, that’s a recurring theme on Tiny Iglesia. On “Dirt” the lyrics seem to drag on and on, “After all is said and done, dirt is what we all become. After we have had our fun, dirt is what we all become.” I find myself waiting for the chorus to be over so we can get back to the interesting melodies like in the first verse.
“Summertime,” “Water,” and “Nightingale” all have similar problems. The vocals are drowned out by these layered instruments, and sound weak in comparison. Each of these songs do have appealing parts in them, but the stuff in between doesn’t keep me coming back. The three songs were previously released on all boy/all girl’s self-titled EP, but featured more stripped down instrumentals and reverb laden vocals. I wish more of Tiny Iglesia sounded like this. The vocals seem more potent and sincere.
Lyrically, Tiny Iglesia deals with themes of childhood, aging, changing, and longing for the youth that seemed to have rushed right by. The line “This is the place from whence we came.” from the opener “To A Flame” is alluded to again in the closer. The phrase is fitting tagline for Tiny Iglesia, and throughout the course of the album we see the narrator develop. Unfortunately, it’s not always a smooth ride. Along the way there are some cringe-worthy lyrics.The worst comes in “Summertime”. The theme of the song is nice: the long days of summer, playing with friends, and having adventures. But, I’m just pulled out of that mindset by cliches “rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” and “April showers bring May flowers.”
Overall, my problem with Tiny Iglesia is that most of the songs leave me apathetic. There are interesting moments musically and lyrically, but it’s too spotty. There aren’t enough catchy, fun moments to appeal to the pop side of chamber pop. And conceptually the themes aren’t existential enough to appeal to the artsy side of chamber pop. Most of the story is just played out in front of you, and you’re not left with anything to ponder. So if Tiny Iglesia doesn’t make me dance, and it doesn’t make me think, then what am I supposed to do? Hopefully, all boy/all girl will incorporate one or both in future releases. That’s something I would love to listen to.