The Small Square
Ours & Others
(Farm to Label Records)
3 out of 5 stars
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Paul Chastain, half the duo known as The Small Square, holds a genuine power-pop pedigree. Once the songwriter and co-founder of the exceptional rock band Velvet Crush, he’s worked with any number of notables, including Matthew Sweet, Mitch Easter, Roger McGuinn, Susanna Hoffs, Tommy Keene, and more. His partner in The Small Square, drummer, percussionist and vocalist John Louis Richardson, boasts an impressive resume of his own, one that’s seen him record and perform with the likes of Joey Molland (Badfinger), Gin Blossoms, Jay Bennett (Wilco), and Keene, among the many.
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The duo’s second album, Ours & Others, marks their second effort and first for Farm to Label Records. In truth, the two knew each other prior to forming their union and recording their self-titled debut album, which was released only in Japan in 2015. Nevertheless, Ours & Others will serve as the initial introduction for most listeners and a songwriting relationship that suggests the yin and yang partnership of, say, Lennon and McCartney.
Various outside contributors lend their talents as well, including Adam Ollendorff on lap steel and 12-string guitar and R. Walt Vincent, who plays bass and keyboards and oversaw the engineering. Of special note, Jeff and John Murphy of the premiere power-pop outfit Shoes make a cameo appearance on the track titled “Open Up.”
The result is a modest and measured example of basic power-pop profundity. “Twenty Third,” “Open Up,” “Tilt,” and “Insta” rock with resolve and determination, while the ballads “Found Object,””Days In” and “Baby Face” offer shared sentiment. Several songs are gleaned from personal experience, including the modest rocker “N. Main Blues,” inspired by the time Chastain spent in Providence, Rhode Island, during the formative years of Velvet Crush, and the aforementioned “Baby Face,” an ode to their mutual friend and revered rocker, the late Tommy Keene.
Granted, The Small Square can’t claim any major moves here, but Ours & Others does bode well for the pair’s ongoing endeavors. Let’s just hope fans don’t have to wait another eight years until their subsequent efforts come to fruition.
Photo by Teddy L Snider Photography