Greyland, Tiny Hazard's debut out February 24th on Ba Da Bing Records, is a raw, jagged treasure -- a testament to the group’s masterful intuition for pop song in chaos. Having established themselves throughout Brooklyn, Tiny Hazard fills their performance spaces with expectant audiences, who thrill to the dynamic energy they witness. Each song is its own vivid capsule independent from the next, but they unite on Greyland to convey something viscerally human. The duality of their approach, in some moments gut-wrenching and heavy, in others light, builds piecemeal towards a complex whole.
Jagged and unpredictable, celestial music filled with terrestrial pain, Tiny Hazard has an unlimited number of ways to create essential pop music. The Brooklyn-based five piece, who formed when the group met at The New School, is anchored by the vocals of songwriter Alena Spanger, who deftly embodies many roles throughout Greyland. Spanger recorded the vocals in the solitude of her bedroom, carving out a space that allowed her to explore the nuances of her voice: “I like being alone because I feel like I can take my time to relax and get in the right headspace and take risks.” Her songwriting process begins with her singing gibberish, stream-of-consciousness-style thoughts over melodies, eschewing the clumsiness of real words in favor of tone or timbre. Then she focuses on the language, a slow process, to “try and get it just right.” Trained in opera, Spanger prefers “voices that are not perfect,” and was moved to explore vocal possibilities when she heard Meredith Monk. In the heartbreaking "Thirsty Sponge,” her crooning voice is central, in “Sharkwhirl" it's pure manic noise and howl, a texture. Everything works together to pull the listener further, dropping us sporadically into deep, satisfyingly catchy crevasses.
Both live and on Greyland, arrangements are complex, sounds expressionistic. Alena plays keyboards, Ryan Weiner wields a guitar that is often sonically unrecognizable; in the beginning of “Like a Child” it sounds like bells or coins, a bright chirp you might hear in a video game. As a rhythm section, Ronald Stockwell’s drumming and Derek Leslie’s bass playing are painterly in softer moments, but drop unexpectedly into immense grooves, as in the satisfying chorus of “Greyland.” Anthony Jillions colors Alena’s vocals with synths and occasional effects. As a whole they wield the power of tension and release.
Greyland was produced by Jillions under the creative direction of the group, and recorded in New York between studios and bedrooms, in an organic, all-hands-on-deck fashion, in a similar spirit to their live performances. Since starting to work on the record, the band has acquired 15% more tattoos, totaled a car, and started teaching yoga. They plan to show off all of this and more when they tour the album in the US this spring.