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Little Wings - Magic Wand

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Artist: Little Wings

Album: Magic Wand

Label: K

Review date: Jun. 13, 2004

Kyle Field is an ambitious man. The members of his band Little Wings are in constant flux, as is Little Wings’ sound, which ranges song to song from Beach Boys-inspired sun-soaked indie pop to country influenced folk rock. His first three albums were conceived as a trilogy based on the theme of “wonder.” 2002’s “Light Green Leaves” was a trilogy itself, as the cassette, vinyl, and CD versions of the album all contained different recordings of the same set of songs. Little Wings’ live shows can range from a costumed Field improvising songs on the spot to campfire sing-alongs (they recently organized a tour of campgrounds and national parks). In a year that has seen a rise in popularity and critical acclaim for other California based avant-folk singers, it would seem to be the right time for Little Wings’ eccentric and adventurous personality and style to be welcomed by a larger audience.

Magic Wand is Little Wings’ fourth proper album since 1999. While his previous releases contained moments of brilliant song writing, their offbeat conceptual nature often overshadowed their content. Magic Wand, however, is Field’s most ambitious move yet, not for its overwhelming grandeur, but for its concise, well-executed song cycle. With 12 songs clocking in at 46 minutes, this is Little Wings’ first album that needs no explanation to be fully appreciated. It is a quiet, mellow album, which takes on epic proportions through the most basic elements of song writing: melody and lyrics. Field sounds like the well traveled troubadour he is, evoking in his lyrics both a sense of weariness (particularly with the music industry, as in “So What” and “Whale Mountain”) and a sense of blissful, almost childlike amazement at nature (as in the title track). The lyrics are poetic and sincere enough to dissuade past cynics.

Rarely accompanied by anything more than an acoustic guitar or piano, Field opts for a more natural sound, lower than his usual falsetto. The subtle, beautiful melodies of “So What” and “Everybody” shine through with Field’s new vocal confidence. The songs are full of a mixture of longing and joy, creating a melancholic atmosphere similar to the music of M. Ward or Beck’s Sea Change. And the production, handled by K Records main man Calvin Johnson, is extremely clear, no doubt aided by the sparse instrumentation.

With Magic Wand, Field waves goodbye to the hit-or-miss lo-fi recordings of the past and attacks his potential head on with startling results.

By Jon Pitt

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