For some, 'inoffensive' is the most scathing insult you can hurl at a band, but Aberdeen’s Little Kicks are proof that there can be dignity in making modest, straightforward pop music with a consciously broad appeal. Their breezy third record Shake Off Your Troubles has a familiar sound that draws liberally from the last two decades of mainstream British indie and demonstrates a strong grasp of the form; choruses always arrive right on time and there are sing-along moments aplenty.
Frontman Steven Milne certainly isn’t afraid of a cliché but has a sweet and quietly outstanding voice that eschews mawkishness – marvel as he dips in and out of falsetto with a skillful nonchalance that could walk all over some of his big money peers. And more so than, say, your Chris Martins, he is genuinely likeable throughout, even despite a few irksome moments of navelgazing (there are two songs about songwriting on here).
Shake Off Your Troubles is a more conservative effort than their dance-oriented previous album, Put Your Love in Front of Me, and these songs are perhaps more tasteful than they are exciting, yet the more resplendent production choices – like the candyfloss strings on Often – are a good fit. There are some misfires for sure – the band go full Kaiser Chiefs on Bang the Drum Slowly by mistaking shouty, blunt repetition for catchiness – but the level of polish and graft evident even in these weaker spots in undeniable.
And then there’s moments like Don’t Get Mad, Get Even’s blissful intro, where the musicians get to stretch their limbs and settle into an easy and evocative vibe, however short lived. Sure, The Little Kicks’ lane might be squarely in the middle of the road, but they ride it competently.
Listen to: Don't Get Mad, Get Even; Let's Get Lost Together