With a sweet, pretty, and childlike voice, Kendl Winter once again takes us back to music’s roots revival with her second studio album The Mechanics of Hovering Flight. Winter is a banjo pickin’, multi-instrumentalist from Olympia, Washington, and her music is certainly tied to the dense forests, jagged mountains, and rolling rivers of the Pacific Northwest. However, it is also wrought with allusions to southern folk and bluegrass. Each song on this album is layered with jovial banjo riffs, springy snare beats, and the candid sounds of seasonal innocence. You’ll want to take these songs out on the porch with a glass of iced-tea and soak up some sunshine.
Sun-drenched and rustic, the album’s first track, “Summertime”, showcases Winter’s girlish charm. Winter sings in the third chorus, “Summertime and the open skies astound us / Build a home of the things we find around us”, and that line somehow sums up this album: music that was made out of sheer joy and cherished moments of everyday life. “Shades of Green” is drawn on hints of Bon Iver’s “Holocene”. Saturated in imagery and teeming with luminous guitar riffs and soft snare patters and cymbal crashes, this song is wrapped in delightful simplicity. Winter’s idyllic songs elicit sensations that go beyond the music itself, and this one feels a lot like dipping your feet in lapping lake water.
Kendl Winter makes a sweet and lovely first impression, but by the album’s third and fourth tracks, she’s roaring in unforgotten heart-ache. Reminiscent of Loretta Lynn, Winter brings to “Faded” deeper, grainer vocals steeped in experience. The song maintains a rural and wistful feel with simple guitar strums, soaring fiddles and mandolin twangs. “Do You Leave the Light On?” is shrouded in even heavier, darker vocals, similar to Neko Case. The song seems to be rolling with thunder, feeling like a deserted town in an Old West movie.
However, these dim and steamy songs are rarities on The Mechanics of Hovering Flight. Most of Winter’s songs are dulcet and energetic, and the album picks up with her familiar sound once again on the sixth track, “Story My”. Laced with classic, trilling banjo riffs and flattering vocal harmonies, this song is simply adorable. Many of the songs on the album are cinematic, and this one is chock-full of lush pastoral imagery. From the “trout turnin’ circles” to the “the wind on the ancient glaciers” to the “steam off a cup of tea”, your imagination will revel in this song’s dazzling landscape.
Beginning with a trickling and dripping faucet-like guitar riff, “Fill My Glass” floats on the ripples of delicate strums and supple snare beats. Although not too conspicuously, Winter seems to exhibit subtle traces of an Ani DiFranco influence, but perhaps only vocally. “Fill My Glass” is stunningly crafted with rapid verses and a chorus that falls into a trailing tempo, faintly shifting into a minor key.
“Mama Will Buy” is an interesting rendition of a nursery rhyme that so many mothers sing to their children. Blooming with feminist commentary, Kendl Winter sings of broken hearts and dreams with a mother’s comforting and assuring voice. Invigorated with a porch-wind-chime sound, spirited banjo picking, and charged vocals, this song is empowering yet nostalgic for a time when mama really could fix everything.
Winter brings more rustic sounds to the album with “Quit Your Job Joe”. This soulful, foot-tapping song sounds like old African American spiritual tangled in a cowboy fireside song. If songs could have aromas, this one would be drifting with whiffs of smoky coffee, whiskey and evergreens. Fun and a little bit sexy, Winter lets her hair down in “Quit Your Job Joe”, singing, “you can be the king of my tiny town, and I’ll be the queen of your feather-down.”
Although The Mechanics of Hovering Flights is filled with sunshine and nostalgia, it is not terribly sentimental. You may not find the album’s beauty after a first listen, but there are plenty of hidden treasures in these enchanting, movielike songs.