It’s Medicinal!: The Hand-Sewn Power Of Little Wings
by Trinie Dalton
Originally published Jan 16, 2008 on Arthur’s Yahoo blog
Soft Pow’r, the new Little Wings album, wields its quietude like a sword. Lead singer Kyle Field rambles through tunes pondering solitude and longing, but his sad songs have an acidic, transformative edge: gentle guitar lullabies strummed underneath harmonized, twangy vocals that are often compared to Neil Young’s. Current bandmates Lee Baggett, Curtis Knapp, Adam Forkner, and Jona Bechtolt amp up the enterprise in parts; some songs, like “Free Bird,” have a simple country edge, while others, like “Beep About,” are more jazzy and abstract. Field mentions via email that he likes playing loud live, but hadn’t had the desire to record loud music in awhile. He says Soft Pow’r has a “mediciney” feel.
Soft Pow’r is less wizard-inflected than Little Wings’ previous album, Magic Wand: there’s more direct lyrics about the songwriter’s moods, and the musings detail specific people and settings. In the past Field has eschewed blunt narrative messages, mostly declining interviews in favor of writing songs cryptic or whimsical enough to encourage interpretive guessing.
Listening to Magic Wand, I’d suspected that Little Wings were mellow, canyon-dwelling elves who played crystal-powered, ancient machines for their songs featuring whale mountains and a wand who hides inside someone’s robe. Field has described exploring mystical themes through harmonic music as his desire “to study the patterns and relationships between lines, and to think of singing as weaving the sound’s fabric.”
But with Soft Pow’r‘s first line, “Totally lost in the fog, who’s not?” Little Wings launch into several tracks about memory—remembering the past to grasp the present. “Gone Again,” a bluesy tune about someone sitting on a beach, “out of touch,” conjures up a narrator lamenting a missing loved one. The lyric, “I feel a breath but it’s not from my mouth,” in “Warming” evokes an image of a ghost searching for signs of life.
Nature is the buoy keeping characters afloat in Little Wings’ music, providing the free, open space where one discovers feelings long buried. Emotional states in Field’s music have always been conveyed through nature metaphors. Throughout my favorite Soft Pow’r song, “Scuby,” about a boy mysteriously departed, sun slants through windows, pumpkins are carved and candlelit, and tall trees sway in an Autumn tribute heralding a change of season as much as change of friendship. Field feels that describing human conditions through nature’s cues creates timeless songs that remind the listener of mortality. Soft Pow’r offers nature as solace: self-reflecting and medicinal, like the album itself.
Soft Pow’r, just released on Field’s new imprint RAD with upstream support from Marriage Records, links Field’s visual talents with the musical. Field is an exhibiting artist who makes earthy yet ethereal colored pencil and watercolor drawings–he has already designed a skateboard deck for RAD, and his friend Richard Swan has artfully hand-sewn Soft Pow’r promotional patches to sell on RAD’s website. These are no average patches; Swan once mailed me a customized wool sweater covered with Sasquatch patches, including a giant, brown foot with a question mark cut out of it, and a patchwork Bigfoot scene depicting the beast caught by a camera lens. I love men who sew!
Check out RAD: marriagerecs.com/rad/ rad.html Check out Kyle Field’s drawings: www.kyledraws.com
TRINIE DALTON is an author and frequent contributor to the free transgenerational counterculture bimonthly Arthur Magazine. Her latest books are the illustrated novella A Unicorn Is Born (Rizzoli) and Wide Eyed (Akashic), a collection of short stories.