The Light Divides
The second record from this Northampton, Massachusetts quartet is, true to the band’s moniker, perfect winter music to space out to (it was released back in February), but listening to it in the heat of August, it sounds damn fine too.
The key difference between this one and the band’s first record is more bells and whistles. Whereas the self-titled debut was a homemade affair recorded in singer/keyboardist Flora Reed’s house, this one was recorded in a studio. The change allows Winterpills to expand their musical palette with new textures.
That’s never truer than on the Elliott Smith-meets-Neil Young opener “Lay Your Heartbreak,” which may be the band’s most dynamic track. But everything that was great about the first record is here as well, including singer/guitarist Philip Price’s melancholy songwriting and Reed’s breathy harmonies. “Wrong people are being loved/ Wrong ones dying/ Wrong ones always take control,” Price laments.
Price loves to juxtapose impressionistic, often dark, sometimes stream of consciousness lyrics against the prettiest melodies and most ear caressing acoustic guitars you’ve ever heard. You may even find yourself singing along with the unlikely chorus of “Shameful”: “Semaphore sunrise/ Arthrospore moons/ Above this room all of our readings/ All of the noons and butcher’s brooms/ Shameful the hiding/ Painful the toxic fumes.”
Reed gets a nice lead vocal showcase on “Handkerchiefs” and if “Broken Arm” is about as rocking as this band gets (not very), they still manage to soar in quieter moments as on “Angels Fall” and “A Folded Cloth.”
Occasionally, as on “Eclipse” and “I Bear Witness,” the band seems to get locked into a dull groove from which there seems no escape. But stay with Winterpills and you’ll be rewarded with a perfect pop song like the Matthew Sweet-worthy “July” or the cheery sounding “A Ransom” which includes the chorus of “this is what you will wear to the end of the world.”
But it’s songs like “June Eyes” that play most to the band’s strengths. Just a gentle whisper of a song, it manages to encompass every tactile sensation and emotion in the space of four minutes as if Winterpills have found a way to be at one with the universe.
Worth a listen regardless of the season.