Pick a word. Any word. “Simple” keeps rolling around up there as I ruminate on SALES’ self-titled debut. But that doesn’t quite cut it. Yes, this music has a certain simplicity to it, but I’m not trying to use the term condescendingly. I can just see the scrunched up face of a dismissive critic saying “it’s… simple,” waving their hand, and leaving it at that. Instead, I want to take a more detailed look at how that might just be the EP’s biggest asset.
SALES kicks things off with “renee,” which opens on a short guitar motif that repeats throughout, keeping the pulse uniform and driving. It’s uncomplicated. It’s boxy. And subsequent instrumental and vocal variations fit within the rhythmic constraints of the original pattern, putting heavy emphasis on the downbeats. This metronomic approach to layering can be dangerous, often leaving behind a jagged, square, and ultimately predictable aesthetic. However, SALES has managed to avoid this by keeping it clean, with only two to three lines to concentrate on at a time. Even though these lines exist within the same rhythmic space, they are individual musical ideas that stand alone and can be followed simultaneously. By paring it down to these essentials, SALES has eliminated excess weight and opened the track to a lighter, airier feel.
The tentative, hesitant start we got in “renee” quickly disappears as the EP progresses. With every new track, SALES gets stronger and more confident in their music and performance. Not only can we hear it in Lauren Morgan’s vocals, but also in the musical direction the band takes over the course of the EP. The wonderful quality to this oeuvre is that it features the band spherically. We get to hear SALES take on bubble gum uke pop with “chinese new year,” mellow rock ‘n’ roll with “vow,” and patient melodic patterns with “getting it on” that gently ripple into a warm and inviting aesthetic, lending itself extremely well to slow, circular head bobbing (the best kind of head bobbing).
“getting it on” is a new addition to the SALES repertoire. (We’ve heard the first three songs on this EP over the past year and a half, but with the debut of this EP, the Orlando natives have added two new tracks and a remix.) “getting it on” adheres to a similar framework as “renee,” with multiple lines simultaneously operating within the same rhythmic space. However, on this go around there are more musical trajectories to keep track of, leaving behind a warm, full bed of smooth instrumentals. This song immediately puts you in a trance, holding your attention with simple guitar repetitions and harmonic colors that seamlessly weave in and out of each other. Interestingly, if you break it down, there are just two sections to this song that alternate back and forth. One is more straightforward with an evenly divided rhythm. The other has some playful rhythmic variation that is quite subtle, but really packs a punch when put in contrast with the opening pattern. It’s simple, but absolutely brilliant. This tactic keeps the song driving forward without sacrificing any of its character.
SALES has mastered the art of simplicity with this EP. Each track has its own, distinctive character, yet the band has been able to achieve that while maintaining cohesion throughout. There’s definitely a quality of pop accessibility, but just enough roughness around the edges to keep things interesting. All in all, while it’s mostly just a repackaging of their singles, the band’s debut has certainly impressed both aesthetically and technically.