April 12, 2007

Slanted Spotlight: Winterpills

If you have a sharp attention span and have been following us here at Above The Din for a long time, you may remember Slanted Spotlight. I return almost sheepishly with the intent of reviving this feature after its hibernation period.

It's an overcast day in Northern New Jersey, and the air is grazed with a chill that makes the rain more severe. I don't want to leave the room very much, and it's one of those days that reminds me of Winterpills. Their rich brooding melodies seem to seep into the laid-back, reflective atmosphere of the day.

These guys (and girl) were entirely unknown to me until a trusty copy of Paste Magazine came with a CD that featured "Pills For Sara," from their first and then-only self-titled album. It was haunting. It told a fragment of a bitter story, it was literary, with striking lines such as "Biting hard and crushing flowers, sleeping through my superpowers". I was intrigued.

And then, after a hibernation period in my appreciation for them, RyTunes and I explored 2005's "Winterpills" only to find a plethora of interestingly written and textured songs. "Laughing" has a nice cruising melody, "Found Weekend" is artsy cafe waltz meets epic insistence in the repeated "You will live forever." "Looking Down" is melancholy in a thoughtful, understated way. "Portrait" paints a scene we can visualize and contains the deliciously descriptive line "There's honey in my chemicals." The band uses both acoustic and electric guitars, both male and female vocals, and "Winterpills" is an album for days when time stands still. It feels like folk, and like music that doesn't take itself too seriously while at the same time having brilliant lyrical and melodic moments. Some of this may have to do with its humble origins in the home of singer/keyboardist Flora Reeds.

“Our original idea for the first album was to casually record some demos at my house, but before we knew it we were making a full-length record,” says Reed.
"The Light Divides," Winterpills' latest album, was just released on February 27, and I've heard sporadic bits so far, thanks to their official site and their MySpace posting two songs. "Handkerchiefs" is precious, with Reed's voice carrying crystal-clear and the calm-endearing "We need a place where we can talk." I'm reminded of Jewel's early work, with an indie edge and more maturity. "Broken Arm" is more direct and straightforward, accusatory even. The raw start, marching tempo, and profanity (is this their first time?) shows they took it up a notch. It's different, but it's fun.

There seems to be a certain timelessness involved, and the sense of this group as a band of dreamers is conveyed nicely in drummer Phillip Price's explanation of the latest project's name:
"I was thinking how, in the dark, we’re all one unrevealed event, a miasma. It's only when we are hit with light that we are separate. In a way, perhaps this collection of songs is my way of cursing the light and, for better or for worse, avoiding lighting any candles."
Worth delving into on any given rain-day.

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