The consistent strangeness and obtuseness of Pixx’s Small Mercies is what keeps her glowing in a crowd of indie pop rockers. Pixx (Hannah Rodgers) can skillfully manoeuvre from grunge to twee to more modern electronic material like a chameleon. She consistently places a foot into these vastly differing sounds without confusion of what her music is: an instrument for tackling the inconveniences of young adulthood. Pixx serves as a mouthpiece for the rebel who goes to observatories to examine the beauty of the world, and for the outcast that still picks their nose.
Small Mercies highlights are its near-spontaneous switches in sound, not only from track to track, but within a single song itself. It’s not so much a switch from distortion to clean instrumentation or vocals that grip onto listeners, but instead a grasp of musical influences. Pixx tackles the electronic pulse of New Order with the same strength that they would tackle more St. Vincent-inspired numbers. She doesn’t lose her individuality by showing their influences on her sleeve. Aside from the interludes, none of Small Mercies feels skippable: it’s incredibly interesting.
“Andean Condor” jumps right into engaging listeners, feeling less like a zoological lesson and more like a dance track for the odd ones out. The electronic beats mirror those of MGMT’s recent
Little Dark Age. Its obtuseness is also heard in its lyrics: “Mature males tend to be at the top of the pecking order / It’s stale / Detest it ’cause you want to.”
The song slips in social commentary without making it contrived. This is also found in “Disgrace”, which challenges the idea of tradition in a way that would make U.S. Girls proud. Despite the mostly upbeat nature of Small Mercies, however, there’s a dread surrounding its world.
Alongside this dread is Pixx raging in her own way. “Funsize” initiates a trip hop rhythm, only to engage in a more rebellious chorus, with each line protesting against a disempowering force. The grunge that slides in and out of “Mary Magdalene” demonstrates an artist that knows how to carve a track with a perfect balance of nasty and neat. The title track, which starts with a frenzy of ricocheting beats, blends emo with twee to produce cacophonous results. Every piece of the musical puzzle feels oddly shaped in Pixx’s arsenal. She knows how to coordinate each piece to explore its full potential.
The interludes don’t necessarily make the album suffer, although they are arbitrary. The lo-fi sounds of “Blowfish” feel like a proper send-off, yet in an album filled with so much energy, it would have been better to go off with a bang. “Hysterical” doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the tracks of your average indie darling. That said, it’s a case showing how active every guitar is on the album. Nothing is flat, and that’s what makes Pixx’s music endearing.
Small Mercies doesn’t highlight a single aspect of musicality within a track. Pixx doesn’t take a riff and make it the centrally active part. The sum really is greater than its parts in Pixx’s latest effort.