There's a delicious hush to "A Benediction," the opening track on Winterpills' first album. As Philip Price murmuringly sings, "All the sad boys come home with you" over an ambling acoustic-guitar line, visions of Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and other '60s choirboys, coats wrapped against Northeast weather, come to mind. Then things go from merely pretty to downright glorious when the harmonies start, as crisp and shining as crystal. You hear the winter in Winterpills.
The harmonies come courtesy of Price (who also plays acoustic guitar and keyboards), Dennis Crommett (on electric guitar) and Flora Reed. The other artists on this lovely debut are Jose Ayerve, bassist and album producer, and Dave Hower, on percussion. Most of the songs have the softness of "A Benediction," but on bolder tracks such as the folk-rocker "Laughing" and the paisley-printed "Threshing Machine," the bittersweet lyrics undercut the instrumental swagger. On the latter, Price, who also writes the group's songs, envisions a photo with a lost lover as if it showed the couple in the moment of its own destruction: "Do you feel like you felt anything, ever, at all?" he asks, and the repetition in those last needy words is the sound of a heart breaking.
Whether delicate or hard-driving, all the tracks on "Winterpills" evoke the miseries of that first breakup, the loss of innocence, all manner of concerns of the newly grown up. The songs are good enough, but that sound -- that ice-filigreeing-the-bare-trees sound, cold and achingly beautiful -- is what sets this group apart.
-- Pamela Murray Winters