“Yr Shadow,” the first song on Small Deaths, reminds me of Nina Persson and Nathan Larson’s “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” off the Boys Don’t Cry soundtrack. It’s got a similarly shimmery, dusky, open-chord feel that runs like an undercurrent through the album. It serves to soften the country-folk edges of the songs, the way nighttime — the darkness itself — sometimes seems to transform a bustling big-city boardwalk into a hushed murmur.
And it’s appropriate for Small Deaths to evoke a film, considering that Missoula musician Marshall Dorothy Granger is also a filmmaker. He showcases his cinematic sensibilities by tucking color, texture and other concrete details into nearly every line of the five tracks. In “Carsick,” he sings, “Pieces of glass in our living room / Red brick says I’m not like you.” And, for an example of a contemporary visual: “Hands shaking in the night, cut the dark with touch screen light.”
Small Deaths features some of Missoula’s biggest talents: Singer/violinist Jenny Fawcett and multi-instrumentalist Lukas Phelan, both of Shahs; singer/accordionist Hermina Jean Harold, formerly of Butter (whose album Removable Beast feels of the same species as Small Deaths); and Jesse Hadden, who provides lap steel on “Carsick.” Granger plays guitar with effective emotion. He is a strong songwriter in the vein of Bright Eyes, but more experimental. Some songs include electronic noise and samples that are fairly cacophonic. Somehow it adds tension without disrupting the album’s delicious dreaminess.