Album Review: Tiny Habits – All For Something (2024 LP)

The terms “going viral” or “blowing up” come with a sort of stigma attached, as if an unquantifiable algorithm perseveres over undeniable talent. However, as a not-so-little folk trio out of Boston, Massachusetts contests, that’s not the whole story. Graduating from viral TikTok sensations, sharing harmony-laden covers in their dorm stairwell, to widespread acclaim following their 2022 EP Tiny Things,  Tiny Habits have proved they’re the real deal.

Formed at the Berklee College of Music, the band is the collaborative effort of Cinya Khan, Maya Rae, and Judah Mayowa. Having already made fans of Elton John and Phoebe Bridgers, the Boston threesome are ready for their next big thing: the release of their highly anticipated debut album All For Something – and ‘something’ it sure is.

Produced by Tony Berg (boygenius, Phoebe Bridgers) and slated for release today, All For Something is a 12 song collection of emotionally mature, sincere song writing, and untouchable three part harmonies. The cohesiveness of this release could be mistaken for a band well into their career, belying the relatively short creative partnership of the Boston-based trio. Teeming with raw emotion, introspection, and poetry, All For Something is the crescendo of a band somehow at both the top and the beginning of their game.

Opening the album with ambient finger-picked guitar, “Circling” is accompanied by the angelic, ethereal vocals of Cinya Khan. The song captures the vulnerability of falling in love and an inevitable yielding to true affection. Lasting only 1:44, “Circling” is a true litmus test to the melodic delivery, lyrical content and transcendent vocal harmonies that define Tiny Habits. Like a handshake extended in greeting, the track is a brief invite to the longer conversation of the album to come.

People Always Change” follows, opening with delicate acoustic guitar quickly enveloped by wailing electric guitars and rhythmic, punching drums. The swelling, atmospheric instrumentation offers a vibrant, pop-infused soundscape. Showcasing versatility and exploration in Tiny Habits’ musical offerings, this track rejects any notion that the band has confined themselves by genre. Maturely constructed lyrics detail the narrative of love teetering on the edge. Arguments observed at a distance and realizations made in the seltzer aisle are delivered with biting sincerity. The introduction of Judah Mayowa’s soulful vocals in the second verse is a particular standout, wrapping the song’s midpoint in audible velvet.

The third track, “The Knocker, is a return to scheduled broadcasting, offering a soft-spoken anthem for people pleasers far and wide. With an acoustic guitar riff fit for a Jim Croce record, the track captures unrequited love and one-sided affection with a vintage folk styling. Part exasperated gasp, part frustrated breakup note, the song is a post-relationship epiphany delivered with vulnerable, heart-wrenching honesty. As expected, the outstanding vocal prowess of all three members combines to wring out the helplessness of lines like “…your indifference, I couldn’t stand it. But if it was all I could get from you, oh in a heartbeat I’d grab it…”. A personal favourite, “The Knocker is a vivid illustration of a love imbalanced and the silent suffering of knocking on closed doors to say sorry.

Kicking in with a grooving country vibe, Flickersubstitutes the lap steel for gloom-tinged slide guitar.  A sonically easy listen while lyrically introspective, the song swims in themes of detached intimacy and the paradox of returning to someone guaranteed to hurt you. A work of juxtaposition the chorus states, “…should’ve known by now, you like keeping me around, cause I’m easy to have…” pairing with the helpless emotional addiction of “…I know this to be true, you’re so easy to succumb to…“. Flicker stands as a testament to the band’s ability to sell deeply interesting lyricism in their own brand of catchy neo-folk.

“Mudroom” proves to be one of the sweetest tracks on the album. Carrying the scaled-back production largely on their vocal performance, the trio seamlessly trade harmonies and verses throughout. A stroke of wonderful, mature writing, the mudroom represents the transitional space between a rough and wild outdoors and the  intimacy of home. Serving as a metaphor for the limbo between previous heartbreak and the threshold of new love, the song muses on the fear, hesitation and desire of going forward into the unknown. The sweetness of  domesticated love pours out in visions like “…I see the warmth inside you, kitchen towels and Christmas lights…” and is contrasted with “…does hesitation to a good thing, mean the wounds need more healing…?” With an ending hinting things might work out, “Mudroom” is well-written, beautifully introspective and carried by wonderful vocal performances.

A refreshing change of pace, Malleable greets listeners with delicate piano and the soulful solo vocals of Khan. A reminder of the dangers inherent to moulding oneself to fit the expectations of others, “Malleable” matches cruising harmonies and a wonderfully catchy chorus infused with restrained venom. Lines like “…it’s just impractical to be a fraction of myself for you, thought it made me valuable…” are executed and elevated by Khan’s solo effort.

Leading the vocals next on “Broken” is Maya Rae. Resembling a Billy Joel tune wrapped in a cardigan, this one oozes a charming jazz lounge atmosphere. With not a wasted word, “Broken” is a crooning, satisfying, unexpected throwback worthy of a track listing on Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours. Reflecting the damage and confusion of a relationship ending without a bang, it suggests amicable ends provide no closure. The emotional limbo is reflected in lines like “…why’d you have to leave your words so open? Something else like broken trust or bored of us or someone else you’re holding…” emphasise the feeling of a love leaving the room but keeping the door open. Another further example of unbelievable song writing versatility, this one is earning spins from me for a long, long while.

“Planting Flowers” is up next led by Mayowa. A soft-spoken, heartfelt tune about longing, dreams and love. A bittersweet offering trading sonic similarities to genre relative Iron and Wine, this low-key track  is a subtle, well-written listen inducing both a smile and a painful grimace.

“I Don’t Have the Heart” comes as a surprising burst of energy approaching the tail end of the album. A second wind following some slower ballads, this tune is arguably the album’s magnum opus. Ignoring subjective personal taste, “I Don’t Have the Heart” combines the elements of skilful song writing, infectious melodies, and you guessed it, undeniably ear-pleasing harmonies to form a folk-pop masterpiece that is a jewel atop an otherwise glittering crown. A universal airwave pleaser and accessible pop-styled offering, this one is certain to be enjoyed far and wide.

“Small Enough” is another biting track delivered with a sharp tongue. The glee of realisation that someone has finally become insignificant enough in your heart and memories to be forgotten is projected with happy-go-lucky vibes. With a syringe of catharsis straight to the heart and a delightful slide guitar solo, “Small Enough” will be appreciated by anyone who’s ever shed the dead weight of emotional baggage.

Wishes adds to the harmonic showcase on offer, with beautifully heartfelt vulnerability and the most emotive use of harmonies on the album. In the stream of Savage Garden’s Affirmation with I wish over I believe, it’s a list of the things we wish we were, that we simply aren’t. Operating like a checklist of universal insecurities, it’s a tune laced with honest vulnerability that lingers on sombre internal reflections of never being enough. An unexpected heartbreaker, it doesn’t get more honest than this one.

 

“Salt and Sand” rounds out the offerings on All For Something, ending on a soulful country-folk styling and a key change. A reflection of past love and all its beauty and sadness, the album goes gently into it’s goodnight.

All For Something proves to be a an exceptionally mature, beautifully well written and consistent debut.  Carried by unbelievably pitch perfect three-part harmonies and utterly charming song writing, there is much to enjoy here. Some may find the outside the box melodic choices, modern vocal style and overall folky-pop aesthetic to be too much, and that’s fair. This certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you have the heart however to push through, the album offers intimate moments of micro storytelling, intricate poetry and skilful artistry that would be a shame to let go to waste.

Described by Elton John as “delicious”,  I would simply describe Tiny Habits as undeniable. All talent, no algorithm.

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

All For Something is out today. Grab it HERE

Header image credit: Tyler Krippaehne