I should probably mention The Strokes up front because no matter how this album turns out, the first thing you’ll most likely hear about in regards to Little Joy’s debut self-titled effort is going to be compared to The Strokes. Granted, their drummer Fabrizio Moretti is one of the principal songwriters of this new project, but for the most part the comparisons should stop there.
Little Joy is an album that shoots you straight, letting you know exactly what’s coming. It lets you know that for the next 30 or minutes of your time, you will feel virtually no other emotion other than what they prescribe in the title; and why not? When it comes to feeling happy let’s not beat about the bush. If someone or something is intent on giving me a good time I’m ready. The trio consisting of Binki Shapiro, Fab Moretti and Los Hermanos vocalist Rodrigo Amarante come out swinging, or rather smiling, with first track “The Next Time Around”. It is one of the upbeat numbers that comprise about half the album and just begs you to put it on in the sunshine. Other foot stompers like “How To Hang A Warhol” and “Brand New Start” work for much the same effect, daring you not to smile and twist to and fro. The latter even manages to evoke a little Christmas cheer just in time for the holiday with Moretti’s tenor guitar accentuating and soaked in reverb ala Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”. It’s almost funny to think about but when you do it suddenly opens the door onto just what Little Joy’s influences may be.
All of those mid 50s and early 60s classics were filled with a sort of naïve hope and desire, wonderfully played out with charm and orchestral cues. Little Joy is much the same, with Amarante’s smooth voice drawing comparison to the crooners of that period. His part played on slower numbers like “Play The Part” “With Strangers” and especially the closing track “Evaporar” melt the heart. The third leg of the trio, Binki Shapiro, seems the perfect person to recruit in such a vintage sounding effort. Just listen to “Unattainable” or “Don’t Watch Me Dancing” and try not to fall for Ms. Shapiro. Everything is brought together by the pleasant surprise in Fabrizio Moretti’s abilities with the six-string. The principal behind most of the songs on the album it is his lead guitar that mostly gives the album it’s charm (see “For No One’s Better Sake”). All parts come together on personal favorite “Shoulder To Shoulder”. It’s a track that has somehow jumped four decades and found itself on Little Joy’s debut. It is smooth, happy in it’s longing and full of charm. Now if you’re looking for a little familiarity to that other New York quintet to which Moretti is a member, then they’ve put in “Keep Me In Mind”, which sounds a B-Side to Is This It? Hopefully you’re looking for something new though.
Despite the endless comparisons to certain members’ “day jobs” it is at least exciting to see that different parts of the whole can actually go off on their own and produce a simple and charming work such as Little Joy. Here’s to a few more records in the same vein, and if there are I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest a title for the second album: Modest Delight.