CD: Winterpills’ “Tuxedo of Ashes”

Tuxedo Of Ashes(Signature Sounds, 2010):

Winterpills might think of this six-song EP as “a palette cleanser,” as they declare in their press release, but “Tuxedo of Ashes” is certainly no throw-away, stop-gap measure.

It’s a homegrown, hand-hewn batch of quiet but dramatic songs full of heart-tugging melancholy. It all begins with the lilting folk hymn of “Are You Sleeping (Cinnamon, Cardamom, Lithium)?,” dedicated to the gone-too-talents of Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous, Alex Chilton and Andy Hummell. The vocal harmonies of Philip Price and Flora Reed swirl amid the guitars, mellotron and cymbal swells, creating a gentle, but decidedly psychedelic sound.

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“Feed the Spider” takes on a darker, more ominous tone, a time-warped Fairport Convention soaked in a minor-key mood. Reed steps up to the microphone for the haunting banjo/synthesizer fusion “A Magnet – To the Light!”

But the most sparkling gem of this collection of nuggets is the finale – the title track that seems to grow organically from a quiet, strummed folk ballad to grand chorale complete with a choir of guest vocalists that includes Mark Mulcahy (of Miracle Legion), Erin McKeown, Grant- Lee Phillips, Chris Collingwood (Fountains of Wayne), Jose Ayerve (Spouse), Lisa Bezo (the Fawns), Henning Ohlenbusch (School for the Dead) and Nippertown’s own Matthew Carefully.

Unassuming? Perhaps. But undeniably beautiful…

The two-person incarnation of Winterpills (featuring Philip Price and Flora Reed) heads into The Linda in Albany at 8pm on Thursday, opening the show for Erin McKeown. Tix are $20.

Related stories: Winterpills concert review @ The Linda, 2009; Concert review @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 2009; Flora Reed, What Was the First Album You Ever Bought?

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