Soft Alarm / Signature Sounds
he Winterpills, a slo-core indie rock band from Western Massachusetts, have a sound that is less of a dull-gray, and more of a muted silver. Lead singer Phillip Price’s solemn voice turns, creeps, and falls smooth like rain on glass, eventually trailing into a pale neon glow when accompanied by the sympathetic echo of singer Flora Reed. The band plays with this rainy day, bare sound, adding flashes of color with simple, poetic lyrics and buzzes of light with catchy guitars. And while the mood of their self-titled debut album leans toward melancholy, there is a restrained pop-momentum to their songs that leaves a bright aftertaste.
On the song “Benediction,” however, the listener enters an eerie, graveyard atmosphere courtesy of trickling, Nick Drake-influenced guitars and pale phrases sung low: “All the sad boys come home with you.” Cold, shaky tambourines etch a sound of scattering bones, and it’s certainly the most haunting number of the record. For a band clearly influenced by Simon and Garfunkel, this would be their version of “Sounds of Silence.”
Light begins to enter on songs like “Laughing” and “Threshing Machine,” which feel like open freeways. “Machine” is a song about dead-end relationships, with a picture that displays a ‘happy’ couple, “caught in the act of trying to look away.” When they sing to these characters, “Do you feel like you’ve said anything, ever?” it’s as if you find yourself staring awkwardly out of a restaurant window along with them.
Charming in its song-song rhythm, vocals are clear and nuanced on “Cranky,” another song which carves melancholic pictures of lost girls and sadder boys: “She puts away a glass of wine / Faster than the Columbine / Falls off in frost.” While “Pills for Sara” makes drugs sound as pretty and peculiar as a children’s book: “Bright forgetting powders / Reds and yellows / Sweets and sours / Curled around a scented pillow / Biting hard and crushing flowers.”
With a continued hypnotic pace, “Found Weekend” wavers as if it were underwater and alternately lurks as if it were beneath wooden floorboards. “Portrait” has a pretty clear photographic metaphor going on, with warm, catchy refrains—“There’s honey in the chemicals”—but tends to wander into some awkward wordings. But for the most part, their yellowed-paged phrases softly compel, and swing on a tender, frayed rope of melody, at times catching light or lulling in a somber shade. Though bitter in places, overall the Winterpills carry a sweet sound.
Reviewed by: Sue Bell
Reviewed on: 2006-02-03