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Tuxedo of Ashes

(Signature Sounds; US: 5 Oct 2010; UK: import)

The ever-lush Winterpills opted to record its new EP, Tuxedo of Ashes, at home, and at first it seems like the sound has slimmed down with the change of scenery. Opener “Are You Sleeping” is all hushed melancholy, and the first half of “Feed the Spider” is stripped down to bare-folk-essentials. Even Philip Price’s signature voice, so often shadowed in echo, is laid bare. “Feed the Spider”, though, stretches out into the shimmering, moody pop we’ve come to expect from these guys, and that is just the beginning. With guests here like Erin McKeown, Mark Mulcahy, Grant-Lee Phillips and many more, this EP swells impressively as it goes on. “The Ballad of the Anxious Decoder” has a dusty churn to it, but its terra-firma heft is haunted by swirling backing vocals. The title track pulls all the disc’s ambitions into one huge, and excellent, helping. The song takes its time, building layers on top of each other—jangling acoustics, honeyed vocals, the twang of a lap steel, those rippling drums—until they all burst into a blissful, yet overcast, crescendo that ends the EP at its highest point. Winterpills may just be trying to cleanse the palate for the next full-length, but don’t be surprised if the taste of this EP lingers anyway.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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