Daniel Grinberg’s rock band history is unmistakeable on his smooth 2015 release Short Stories. There are plenty of guitar solos here, good guitar solos too, but they benefit from a level of restraint that his years of studying and teaching music in an academic environment have surely mellowed out from the Led Zeppelin-loving, mischievous young man who was once expelled from school.
Within twenty seconds, the album establishes its tone and instrumental roster. The excellent opener ’80 Years’ features relatable, familiar musings on how 80 years is all the time we get, with the first, most abundant, and most impressive of the album’s three vocalists featured. She is credited simply as “Alex”, and this is her – as well as the album’s – shining moment. There’s more than just words in her vocals, there’s a cheeky smile too: tongue firmly in her cheek, she shrugs off any morbid undertones, but keeps them in her sight as she sings. Right out of the gate, Grinberg proves his ability to make music transcend simple sounds, and Alex is the instrument with which he delivers the depth. It’s gentle,
youthful, and slots itself neatly above the acoustic guitar and glockenspiel.
This is not to say that the album is over just as it begins – with the followup, ‘Rivers’, Grinberg decisively launches his guitar chops. Subsequently, ‘Hey You’ provides some grit with organ synths a la Kansas/Boston, not the only classic rock influence to be found. At this point, it seems as though there’s a pattern emerging:
each track takes steps—perhaps not in the name of , but nevertheless resulting—in a unified but not middling set. Just after you see the underlying strength of Aveva Dese’s voice in ‘Hey You’, ‘White Fields’ arrives and Alex returns, to remind you of the delicacy you were hearing just a few minutes beforehand. ‘The Forest’ provides a welcome bite, with minor key chords accompanying the set’s final vocalist, Yoav Arbel.
While ‘Michaela’s’ strings section is disappointingly MIDI (the only poor production choice to be found), generally the clean and warm production
complements the playful electric and acoustic guitars which infuse the album. Closing tracks ‘Thanks’ and ‘You Give Me’ take soppiness a step too far, and Arbel lacks the conviction to haul “you give me life/you give me hope/you let me feel/that I belong” clichés out of upturned-nose territory for anyone who might struggle with the platitudinous lyrics that are repeated across both songs.
‘House Of Dreams’ is lightly reminiscent of ‘I Will Always Love You’, and ‘Beyond’ even manages to sound like The Cranberries. There’s an always familiar pop sensibility across Short Stories, which is flooded with so much influence from popular music across the past sixty years that in some moments, it almost seems new again. This album is about as mature as indie pop gets, and though its folksiness may feel pretty high tech, it will likely stay a hidden gem.