PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Little Wings: Magic Wand

Rob Horning

Little Wings

Magic Wand

Label: K
US Release Date: 2004-08-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

It's a testament to his talent that Kyle Field, who has been releasing albums as Little Wings since 2000, doesn't attract more dismissive ridicule for his faux naif idiosyncracies, his semi-falsetto warbling style and his unrepentant hippiecisms, his songs about babbling brooks and secret canyons and child-like wonderment. His authority and sincerity are unassailable; his performances repel cynicism with the musically courageous chances he takes and the hopeful enthusiasm he makes palpable. Even on his records you can tell that he doesn't care if people laugh at, and so they never do, except when his goofiness -- his fondness for silly costumes and Captain Kangeroo-ish shtick -- constitutes a clear invitation.

This 11-song collection finds Field in an especially exploratory mood, setting aside the pithy brevity and quirky tunefulness that characterized his earlier work for long, near dirges that worry a single ruminative chord progression -- often banged out with rudimentary skill on a piano -- to the breaking point while torrents of puzzling, half-mumbled words are poured out in a few of Field's characteristic singsong phrasings. This is true of the title track and especially the seven-minute "So What?" that meanders through several twists and turns without fundamentally changing its original patterns, varying just enough to keep from being wearying. The song continues to embrace more and more experience, and it would likely be overwhelming without the anchoring repetition, holding it together, giving it comprehensible form. This is in keeping with his peculiar ability to make optimism tangible, to make it real by giving it shape, a shape so stubbornly persistent you can't resist believing in its inevitability. The song gently flows like water through a canyon, seemingly limpid until you think of all the rock it's eroded.

The spare opening tracks, "Everybody", "Whale Mountain", and "I Am with You," sound so similar that they form a seamless trilogy, in which Field discharges a series of evocative propositions for self-definition, with a quick detour describing someone's professional music career. Though extremely capable and in consummate command of his talent, Field could never be considered "professional", in the sense that he goes through the suitably demanded motions to make a living. It sounds more as though he is following a calling, or indulging a compulsion. On these songs, Field seems completely unconcerned about melody, slipping instead into a kind of Joni Mitchell mode, circa For the Roses, in which song structures are subject to the feints and pauses and twists of thought rather than the other way around. He seems to be picking his way carefully through a dark forest with a flashlight, making his steps carefully but unafraid to follow unknown paths heading further in.

Other songs find Field trying out some new things: "Laugh Now" is a steel-drum laden excursion into extreme mellowness, as though he weren't as mellow as could be imagined to begin with -- Little Wings might be the only band that is out-rocked by Bread. And "White Sky" has Field experimenting with what he calls "a refined high realism" in his singing, which seems to mean he's totally unfettered his falsetto and decided to keep whatever crazy cracked yodeling came out in his reaches for unfamiliar or recalcitrant notes. While the results could have been a lot worse, this is an experiment that doesn't really succeed. The album's most rollicking and immediately memorable track is certainly its slightest, the playful "Uncle Kyle Says", a song for children full of light-hearted, self-deprecating jokes and with a familiar, winning melody that wouldn't be out of place on a Raffi album. I suspect that if parents played Little Wings for the kids instead of Raffi, it would serve as an altogether acceptable substitute, and the children would probably grow up to thank them for it, or if not, they may find themselves with a more open-minded, wondrous attitude towards life without really knowing where it came from.

Throughout the record, Field's songs feel very close to their original improvisation without feeling unfinished or half-baked; they feel complete without seeming closed off, and their yearning, searching qualities are capable of haunting you even when you have no idea what in the world he could be searching for.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.