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The Winter Blanket
Golden Sun
Paper Trail Records

Rarely has a band been more aptly named than The Winter Blanket. The Minneapolis-based foursome's most recent release, the six-song EP Golden Sun, is a warm, intimate affair highlighted by the sublime vocals of lead singers Stephanie Davila and Doug Miller. Golden Sun's subdued, atmospheric sound shows no trace of rock-and-roll bravado, but its subtlety only strengthens its impact. The Winter Blanket gathers more inspiration into 25 quiet minutes than most artists fit on a full-length album.

Golden Sun recalls an unusual range of influences. The Winter Blanket fuses the dreamy haze of My Bloody Valentine, the primal pop-rock of The Pixies' "Gigantic," and the acoustic intimacy of Elliott Smith, but Golden Sun is warmer and more uplifting than those influences suggest. The heart of its beauty lies in the vocal interplay between Davila and Miller. Davila's fragile, angelic voice is especially gripping. When both vocalists are in the mix, Golden Sun truly takes flight.

The opening track, "Sleepy Eyes," is structured like a primitive rock and roll song, with fuzzy electric guitar and dreamy percussion melting around Davila's voice. The song sounds like a punk-influenced update of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You," complete with a keyboard solo that would make Ric Ocasek proud. "Cold" is a similar composition, but the lyrics and melody mix bitterness with the otherworldly beauty of Davila's voice. It features the album's best lyrics. "You must've been bitten / or suffered a blow / 'cause nobody's born with blood this cold," Davila sings. The calm in her voice only makes the words more cutting. "Sink Or Swim," another Davila-led track, features an elegant melody and country-influenced arrangement that would fit seamlessly on Jenny Lewis' excellent Rabbit Fur Coat.

Miller's lead vocals are almost as captivating as Davila's. The harmonica-driven folk-rock of "Neil Young Blues" features the album's best harmonies between the two singers, and the understated "Leaving Card" showcases Miller's affectingly worn voice. The epic title track, the album's most complex composition, starts quietly and builds to an instrumental climax. Still, even when the band turns up the volume, it does nothing to dim Golden Sun's soft, peaceful glow.

According to the band's official website, "These six new songs give an exciting indication of what lies ahead for The Winter Blanket. Golden Sun marks the end of one era and the beginning of another." The album would certainly be a powerful way to start anew, and it's hard to imagine a band this talented won't continue to grow. The record is a stunning reminder that sometimes the most unassuming music is also the most beautiful.

-Dan Warren

Track Listing:
1. Sleepy Eyes
2. Cold
3. Neil Young Blues
4. Leaving Card
5. Sink Or Swim
6. Golden Sun

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