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
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.
1. Sleepy Eyes
3. Neil Young Blues
4. Leaving Card
5. Sink Or Swim
6. Golden Sun
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