Just Smile should certainly be shelved in the indie-rock section of any imaginary record store, but this treasure map of an album is pleasantly unpredictable, leading the listener through diverse terrains— and 37 minutes later you come to the end only to realize that the buried treasure was, in fact, the album as a whole.
This eclectic cohesiveness of Just Smile can be attributed to Scatter Gather’s confidence and obvious chops as a band. “I have never been as confident or excited about any music I have made as I am about Just Smile,” quipped front man Carmine Gabbianelli. And it doesn’t hurt that the album was mastered by Jeff Lipton who has mastered albums for the likes of Wilco, LCD Soundsystem, and Bon Iver.
Scatter Gather is made of three friends who reside together in an old church in the Sante Fe art district of Denver. They are young in their passion & ascetic, but mature in their sound, so even as they take you into the blues of The Devil Returns, the jazz of Waiting for Steve, or the electronic of Bones the quality of songwriting and [sometimes solemn] optimism of the melodies and lyrics continuously pervade.
The first track from Scatter Gather’s debut album Just Smile entitled Sirens eases your ears, comfortably introducing their sound to you as if it were a new, yet reminiscent, dialect of live instrument driven indie-rock. And although the opening track acclimates your ears, Sirens should not be listened to as an expectation of what is to come in the following 11 songs. No song on this album is quite like the one before it.
There are certain gems on Just Smile, such as the guitar-oriented Beach, the first song Scatter Gather released from the album. Online, Beach is accompanied by a claymation, stop-motion video that moves at dream speed and awakes childhood without nostalgia – the way I prefer it. Beach is the kind of song you want to wake up to in the morning and go to sleep to at night. Not in the sense that it will be stuck in your head, but in the sense that is appropriate for both sunlight and moonlight.
Another gem is Someone Else Like Me. This song emerges as the most genuine interaction with singer/guitarist Carmine Gabbianelli’s voice & further proves Scatter Gather’s modestly dynamic sound. Someone Else Like Me exhibits the knowledge that what a musician chooses not to play is just as important as what he chooses to play. This is seen by the power a single piano key can produce when correctly placed.
Just Smile is certainly a successful first step in Scatter Gather developing their sound. It is creative & relatable. As far as I am concerned, debut albums fall into A.) songs of the familiar, and B.) songs of the progressive (This critique should be understood as a spectrum with plenty of grey area in between A & B). Just Smile certainly features songs of the familiar rather than songs of the progressive, but this album is in no way complacent. Scatter Gather has much to prove as a young band, and their upcoming West Coast & East Coast tour will help to understand just what kind of animal Scatter Gather is. Just Smile will be released on June 2nd, just in time for it to be on my ipod for the summertime.