The Light Divides
(Soft Alarm/Signature Sounds)
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Sat June 16, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
There’s little doubt that Winterpills is a terrific band, though it also is a young one. Like many up-and-coming ensembles that are met with praise and success that reach beyond initial expectations, the group faced an uphill battle as it began to construct The Light Divides, its sophomore outing. Its self-titled debut was born without any preconceptions when four friends united in a house in Western Massachusetts with the sole intention of exploring their collective love of music. By contrast, The Light Divides was concocted in a studio setting with the stated goal of recording a new album. Throughout the set, Winterpills’ growth is apparent, though its struggles to move forward without repeating itself also are quite palpable.
As was the case with its eponymous endeavor, The Light Divides is steeped in sadness and sorrow, and Winterpills’ principal lyricist Philip Price seems as tormented by his relationships as he is by the state of the world. Taking a more impressionistic approach to writing has given him more room to maneuver, though his point remains crystal-clear. "Wrong people are being loved/Wrong ones dying/Wrong ones always take control," he sings on the opening cut Lay Your Heartbreak. Later during Broken Arm, he adds, "The look of camouflage/On the ones who beg/The decider says I’m a fighter/But I can’t feel my fucking legs."
The arrangements, too, subtly build upon what Winterpills had outlined on its initial foray. The songs remain hushed and quiet, and the manner in which the voices of Price and Flora Reed fit together lends a striking loveliness to the entirety of the affair. Moving beyond the influences of Elliott Smith and The Mamas and The Papas that dominated its early work, Winterpills now has turned to other acts from the West Coast for inspiration. America’s laid-back folk-rock (July), Buffalo Springfield’s pensive deliberation (Lay Your Heartbreak), and David Crosby’s lighter than air, jazz-inflected approach (Eclipse) are brought to the forefront, but beneath the surface of the material lies undercurrents that are as ominous as they are forlorn. However, although all of the pieces to the puzzle are present, this time, they don’t congeal quite as organically as they did on Winterpills’ debut. It might seem like a minor issue, but the result is that The Light Divides feels merely like a good album rather than a great one.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box