Typically, a band’s big indie label debut doesn’t come 15 albums into its career, but with Constant Smiles’ Paragons, here we are.
Primary songwriter and sole “constant” member Ben Jones—who considers Constant Smiles a collective—sees its impressive output as a way to document the group’s evolution. Since its live debut as a noise duo on Ben’s home of Martha’s Vineyard in 2009, Constant Smiles has grown to include contributions from 50 other members, all of whom have personal connections to the group’s extended family.
Through its recent forays into dream pop and shoegaze (Control) and synth-pop (John Waters), Constant Smiles has learned how to incorporate its experimental inclinations more fluidly into the mix. Artists like Yo La Tengo, and the more recent Rat Columns, are good touchstones for Constant Smiles’ musical approach—tethering to an indie-pop core while perennially mining genres, always finding new ways to intrigue listeners and pursue a unique vision. Fans enamored with the gauzy, Slowdivish musings of Control, for instance, will now face the crisp production of Paragons, where the eeriness of downbeat tracks like “Floating” has been replaced with the yearning and confessional tone of “Daisy, Table for Three.” Elsewhere, the band’s krautrock leanings have carried forward on songs like “Please Don’t Be Late” and “Where Am I Now?” albeit covered in a new sheen—the gold leaf gleam and radiant blues of the album cover perfectly mirroring the album’s mood. And just when you think you have Paragons all figured out, you’re hit with one of Constant Smiles’ most overtly melodic surprises to date in the late album gem “Shame.”
Paragons was produced and engineered by Ben Greenberg in the last two weeks of December 2020 at Gary’s Electric, with additional recording done by Ben Jones at his home studio, The Void, and his Aunt Leanne’s house. The album was mixed at Circular Ruin Studio and mastered by Josh Bonati. The band on Paragons consists of Jai Berger (who performed “Introduction”), Spike Currier (bass and synth), Matthew Addison (drums), Emma Conley (violin), Nicky Wetherell (cello), Adam Lipsky (piano), and Ben Greenberg (guitar and Mellotron).
The only constants in Constant Smiles are Ben Jones and his friends.