Earlier this year, Small Black, the Brooklyn synth-poppers who emerged from music’s Chillwave phase a few years ago, released their sophomore record for Jagjaguwar, Limits of Desire. It’s a solid, if not spectacular, effort. While the fuzz and haze are toned down a bit, all the hallmarks of the band’s late-night, laconic drone-pop remain: the hiss and reverb, the breathy vocals, the mid-tempo beats, and the dreamy wash of synths. It’s the same Small Black, maybe this time with an ironed shirt and a clean shave.
But while Small Black’s sound seems to have stagnated, its new video recalls the quality that has, from the beginning, set Small Black apart from its peers — a certain uneasiness lurking beneath the blissful sonic veneer. The video for “Breathless” highlights that angst behind the nostalgia by juxtaposing the longing memories of good-times-had with the darker, chaotic moments from those same flashbacks — parties spun out of control, relationships on the fritz, etc. The video offers a glimpse of the emotional power Small Black might wrest if they pushed more confidently into uncharted territories.