PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Winterpills: The Light Divides

Second album of shimmering folk-pop from one of New England's finest rising exports.


Winterpills

The Light Divides

Label: Signature Sounds
US Release Date: 2007-02-27
UK Release Date: 2007-02-26
iTunes affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Forget that spring is currently struggling to wrest the hemisphere from the stubborn clutches of its cold older brother; Northampton Massachusetts’s folk-pop heroes Winterpills write songs that appropriately enough lend a chill to the air, not for a lack of emotional resonance, but for a crispness in their performances that is the opposite of the relaxed, languorous quality in music born of heat and humidity. Their second album, The Light Divides, builds on the nascent strengths of their self-titled debut, with more hauntingly beautiful male-female harmonies, quiet yearning, and delicate yet determined arrangements. Think kindred spirits Ida removed from Brooklyn and relocated to the fields, farms, and old mill towns of western Massachusetts and you can begin to imagine some of what’s going on here, and why the band has been steadily gaining momentum nationwide for its highly evocative sound.

Winterpills is comprised of several singer-songwriters impressive in their own right -- Dennis Crommett, Flora Reed, and Philip Price -- with Price taking the lion’s share of pen and vocal duties for this particular project. But the expertise of all three, with the help of Dave Hower (drums), Jose Ayerve (bass), and Brian Akey (ditto) shines through every tightly crafted piece. Each knows how to communicate the central, defining pith of a song via words and melody, rather than emoting or bombast, and The Light Divides is consequently an engaging record of often substantial beauty. The opener, “Lay Your Heartbreak”, is a prime example, with a gently lurching tempo and upper register vocals. The rhythms hesitate then flow, making singing along to lines “You could make me feel so good / If you’d come here and cry” irresistible. That sentiment, the bizarre romantic hero fantasy of being a shoulder to cry on, is fine, relatively rare territory for relationship-based pop songs, and typical of Winterpills’ insightful approach.

The uptempo “Broken Arm”, offered twice on The Light Divides (the second time as a radio-friendly hidden track edited for language), goes after the current commander-in-chief from a wounded veteran’s point of view, “The decider says I’m a fighter / But I can’t feel my fucking legs”. The charged language is effective by itself, but even more so as delivered coolly and precisely by Price. “A Ransom” is another highlight, featuring a gorgeously cascading melody again serving unsettling lyrics. Price and Reed sing “On the day you were born / All the birds flew from the corn / And the sky grew gray / On the night you left home / A crack appeared in the dome / And it rained all day / This is what you will wear to the end of the world” as if they were paying the sweetest compliments. Bells chime and harmonies swirl, and all feels right with the world, but something troubling is always lurking.

Comparisons have been prevalent between Winterpills and Elliott Smith since the Pills’ debut, but the similarities are mostly sonic. Where Smith’s tunes wore their emotions big and bold on their sleeves, Winterpills are more subtle, balanced. Reed’s “Handkerchiefs” trades in Smith-standard double-tracked vocals and rippling, folksy jangle, but the tone is less jarring and desperate than that of say, “Baby Britain”. Her melodies are carefully composed into the shimmering flow of the guitars and the ambling pace of the drums, and therefore the emotions inseparable from them—a key component of what makes Winterpills an effective band, rather than a showcase for different singer-songwritery moods. There’s enough enjoyment to be had following Price’s voice on its journey up to falsetto on “You Don’t Live Long Enough” without even worrying about the story being told. But when the sugary rush of Winterpills’s catchiness finally becomes so familiar as to reveal lyrics, the songs only endear more.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


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.