From the first few songs you may wonder if you’ve scored a bootleg of unreleased demos made by The Strokes, perhaps recorded while they were knee-deep in margaritas watching the Caribbean fall into sand. But it’s not The Strokes. This is the first record from Little Joy, a band that happens to include The Stroke’s drummer, Fabrizio Moretti. Joining Moretti is Rodrigo Amarante (from the Brazilian band Los Hermanos), and the lovely Binki Shapiro.
Little Joy is named after a bar in LA (Echo Park to be precise). And a relaxed barroom atmosphere made its way to the record — the songs play as if the perfect accompaniment while you’re sipping on a Michelada leaning on a tattered rainbow-colored picnic bench in a makeshift backyard patio of some dive bar in LA with an ashtray full of half-smoked American Spirits as your eyes pull in the strands of the sun that makes their way through your drugstore sunglasses.
Binki’s songs are what Nico’s songs would have been like if her voice was as adorable as her eyes. The drunken sway of “Don’t Watch Me Dancing” and the wistful cuteness of “Unattainable” will easily put you into dreamland. The songs that Binki sings will make you a believer. Of what? That’s for you to find out. However amazing her songs are, it’s Amarante’s Brazilian-inspired acoustic ballade closing the record that steals the show for me (“Evaporar”). It plays as if Joao Gilberto was a lonesome drunk with love on his mind, pretending that the song he’s playing never has to end.
A friend of mine happened to work on the making of this record. He told me that the band had a distinct sound they were aiming for right from the start. This sent him on a scavenger hunt gobbling up vintage microphones on Ebay (some of these mics were the same ones used on the early Motown records). The sound could be called “lo-fi” because it sounds second-hand. But the textures are sweet and relaxed and deliver the music just as it should. The original pressing, released by Rough Trade Records in 2008, sounds great anytime it starts spinning. This is the perfect record for a lazy summer afternoon BBQ or some late-night mellow hangout. Basically, whatever happening you find yourself in, you can’t lose with this as a soundtrack.