The boom in popularity of lo-fi indie as a genre brought a wave of mellow, acoustic-ish bands jumping on the bandwagon. But so much of it falls flat because this kind of music must be sincere. After all, there isn't anything for duplicity to hide behind.
Little Songs About the Big Picture, the debut album from Portland, Ore.'s The Red River, hits all the notes on the checklist: Lagging tempos. Old rhythm master drum machines. Organs. Trombones. Vocals that straddle the fence between tender and mopey over down-tuned acoustic guitars complete with fret buzz. Whistling. The album even came wrapped in an onion-skin envelope screen-printed with a handwritten letter from the band about what they think the album is really about: "that feeling."
But rather than feeling deliberately introverted and quirky, it works. The songs aren't iconic classics like those penned by Elliott Smith or Ben Gibbard, but their studio execution is delicate and precise with choices in tone and arrangement that set the mood effectively.
Pleasant as it is to listen to, Little Songs About the Big Picture isn't an album that will win converts to the genre or go down on Rolling Stone's list of seminal works. But it doesn't need to be. It just needs to be sincere. And it is.