Winterpills — Echolalia
Location: Northampton, Massachusetts
Album release: Oct 14, 2014
Record Label: Signature Sounds
01. One Day (Sharon Van Etten) 4:37
02. Time Of No Reply (Nick Drake) 4:25
03. From A Shell (Lisa Germano) 3:50
04. Open Your Eyes (Jules Shear) 4:08
05. Learning the Game (Buddy Holly) 3:41
06. We’re The Same (Matthew Sweet) 3:13
07. Bye Bye Pride (The Go–Betweens) 4:13
08. Museum of Flight (Damien Jurado) 2:56
09. Train Running Low on Soul Coal (XTC) 4:09
10. A World Away From This One (Mark Mulcahy) 3:24
11. The Wolf is on the Hill (Beck) 4:28
12. Cry Baby Cry (The Beatles) 4:32
Recording information: The Boomerang Ranch, Hadley, MA (12/2012–03/2014).
♦♦ Dennis Crommett (electric guitar)
♦♦ Philip Price, Flora Reed, Dave Hower, Max Germer.
Also sometimes: Brian Akey, Jose Ayerve, Henning Ohlenbusch.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN, SCORE: ****
♦♦ Dreamy desire and low–cast musings find an effortless blend in this set of unlikely covers, both revered and obscure. Lennon/McCartney, Nick Drake, Matthew Sweet, Beck, and Buddy Holly are but a few of the better known names represented herein, but the fact that the choices are also daring enough to include XTC, Mark Mulcahy, Lisa Germano, Jules Shear and others of that ilk really speaks to Winterpills’ good taste and diversity.
♦♦ Likewise, it’s the band’s ability to emulate rather than simply imitate that makes Echolalia the true gem that it is. Winterpills‘ alluring approach transforms each selection into their own, and even in the case of the better known offerings — Drake’s “Time of No Reply,” Buddy Holly’s “Learning the Game,” the Fabs’ “Cry Baby Cry” — the richness and depth imbued in each is almost enough to make the listener forget about the original. Indeed, this is an album chock full of atmosphere and ambiance, a credit to the musicians themselves and not merely to their choice of material.
♦♦ Indeed, while some groups of the shoe–gaze variety rely simply on hushed harmonies and ethereal tones to narrow their niche, Winterpills achieves a keen sense of dynamics, allowing each tune to build, billow and create a powerful cadence. ♦♦ Consequently, it’s quite clear Winterpills has the knowhow to transcend their sources and create a powerful pastiche of their own. Hopefully then, there will be another set of standards to follow, and if Echolalia is any indication, it will certainly be worth waiting for. :: http://blurtonline.com/ ♦♦
By Matthew Fiander 1 December 2014; Score: 6
♦♦ Western Massachusetts pop outfit Winterpills has long been making excellently lush and bittersweet records. Albums like their eponymous debut and 2007’s Central Chambers are intricate and sweet and long overlooked. If Winterpills has always dealt in a sort of hazy melancholia that’s been around in pop music a long time, it’s always delivered that mood with the band’s own unique angle. This is in no small part thanks to Philip Price and Flora Reed, the voices at the center of these quiet storms. With Echolalia, though, the band takes a new turn. Following another solid record in 2012’s All My Lovely Goners, Winterpills is back with a record of cover songs. These songs are split between the two singers. Price takes the lead on some, Reed on others, and they sing a couple together for good measure.
♦♦ The resulting record is a pure representation of what a cover record should be. It’s an insight into the band’s influences, and they range wildly, but it’s also a chance for both Price and Reed to celebrate some of their favorite songwriters. Both often sound at home doing just that. The artists covered here range from current artists to classic ones, from the underground to the mainstream. With Price on vocals, the band whips Nick Drake’s “Time of No Reply” up into a gauzy, space–pop gem while Reed turns Mark Mulcahy’s “A World Away From This One” into a new sort of intimacy, shifting Mulcahy’s solitary jangle into a more stately, plaintive folk sound.
♦♦ The best stuff on Echolalia finds Price, Reed, and the band revealing its influences while still shifting them into a Winterpills’ sound. Songs here become both tributes and spaces for exploration. The way Damien Jurado’s “Museum of Flight” fills out with barroom–rattling guitar but still maintains its bittersweet center is excellent. XTC’s “Train Running Low on Soul Coal” morphs from its angular pop beginnings into shimmering folk–rock. The tracklist, which also includes versions of Buddy Holly and Beatles songs, covers a wide swath of musical genres and sensibilities, and slowly reveals the myriad layers of influence the Winterpills emerged out of.
♦♦ In exploring these old songs in new ways, there are occasional missteps. The shift into full on dream–pop for a version of Matthew Sweet’s “We’re The Same” feels a bit thin in comparison to the band’s usual knack for layering the organic with synthetic flourishes. Meanwhile, the band’s take on Sharon Van Etten’s excellent “One Day”, opens the record in relatively stripped down fashion. The song sounds sweet enough, but Winterpills are battling against the power of Van Etten’s voice in the original, and it’s tough to match up. And while song choice is a particular strength of Echolalia, the inclusion of Beck’s “The Wolf is on the Hill”, from his Song Reader project, feels like the weakest of the bunch here, and just distracts from the wonderful closing take on the Beatles’ “Cry Baby Cry”.
♦♦ The album is, overall, a solid exploration of how the Winterpills developed a sound, how varied a band’s influences can be, and a nice celebration of a group’s favorite songs. It’s also, at its core, an album with plenty of strong performances to go around. It might not quite hold up to Winterpills’ other albums, but it acts as an interesting and compelling companion piece, and gives us another angle from which to view the band’s always solid, wildly underrated work. :: http://www.popmatters.com/
WILL APPEAL TO FANS OF: Wilco, Beck, Low
♦♦ While their full band was busy raising kids and committed to various day jobs, Flora Reed and Philip Price of Wint erpills decided it would be fun to quickly record some of their favorite cover songs while the tape rolled. But what began as a small casual project morphed into an orchestrated, introspective transformation of a few well — known songs and quite a lot of under — appreciated gems: songs by Sharon Van Etten, Buddy Holly, Lisa Germano, The Go-Betweens, XTC, Beck, the Beatles, and more get the treatment of filtering through the alchemy of Flora and Philip’s vocal & instrumental chemistry experiment.
♦♦ Almost archival in nature, Echolalia does not play like the standard covers album packed with well — known hits. It’s a treasure trove filled with beloved songs picked because Price and Reed felt that they were meant to transform them.
♦♦ Price writes: “Aren’t all albums cover albums? Aren’t our musical daydreams overflowing with versions and interpretations and echoes of songs — others and our own — that have woven themselves into our brains? Songs misremembered, songs massaged or tortured through memory and association… For us, live shows where we play our own songs are sometimes, at least technically, a constant re — inventing of our own material while innately reflecting the influences of others.
♦♦ Some nights I find myself singing one of my own songs in the voice of someone I’d been obsessively listening to for weeks, trying on new voices like a 1940’s character actor. Conversely, other times we weave our own voices into the voices of our musical heroes for the vicarious thrill of blending the living with the dead. It’s a dialog without end and often no one noticing.
♦♦ The criteria for this project were twofold: 1. Dig into the body of ingrained influences and find songs from any era that we connected with, and 2. Transform them in a way that reignited the songs for us personally–not simply a record of us performing it, not playing (much) from the ego. We had to do something that trumped the simple love of the song. There were so many songs and artists that we left off this list and it took some tinkering to realize that some songs are not really meant to by covered or transformed — by us. Simply because a song was great (and influential) was not enough to pass the Echolalia gauntlet; it had to be transformable; we had to be successful Dr. Frankensteins and re–animate, and not worry if it was a monster or not, or afraid of fire…”
♦♦ Starting with their self–titled debut in 2005, Winterpills have built a vibrant career with their exquisite chamber–pop songs that The Washington Post called “densely packed but hugely evocative, tiny bombs of feeling and meaning… fiendishly melodic.” From the group’s origins one cold winter in 2004 as a song circle for heartache, the band has truly blossomed, releasing three full–length albums — a self–titled effort in 2005, The Light Divides in 2007 and Central Chambers in 2008 — and the 2010 E.P. Tuxedo of Ashes, which The New York Times praised for “elegant arrangements” of “songs that stay haunted.” 2012’s All My Lovely Goners embraced the hushed vocal harmonies and graceful chamber–pop sound the group has made its trademark, while pushing the quintet into new sonic realms. MOJO magazine included the album in their 2012 top 10 Americana list.
Signature Sounds Recordings/
Soft Alarm Music
32 Masonic St., Northampton, MA 01060