"Mom, I bought this really awesome CD last week. It's this band called the Fiery Furnaces, and..."
"That's nice. Is your phone reception usually this clear?"
"Yeah, my phone's good. But there's like this ten minute song on the album about trying to defend a ship full of blueberries from pirates. Isn't that pretty weird?"
"Matt, have you changed your sheets in the last month? I know you don't believe in that."
And... parents. We start our musical journeys to defy them (the Offspring drink beer and swear!), but once we move out of the house, we realize all we want is for them to understand. I'd love nothing more than to go see the Constantines with my dad or blare Trompe Le Monde while driving to lunch with my mom. Heck, this extends to aunts, uncles and grandparents, too. What would the holidays be like with a familial "Trigger Cut" sing-a-long? (Answer: Better than watching A Christmas Story every fucking time.)
But when I try to connect with my parents about music, they refuse to converse. To them, the subject of music is an impenetrable barrier. I mean, just listen in on the inner-scoffings of my dad: This whole "independent rock" thing? It must be something you can only listen to if you get carded at Walgreen's and still attend classes of some kind.
Yo La Tengo has come closest to bridging the gap between indie and adult, but they still go and make experimental noises while meandering beyond the four minute mark. Tsk tsk. The parents Weir do not approve of such things. The Winter Blanket, on the other hand, strip away the strangeness and play the straight-up minimalist folk-pop game on Prescription Perils. Every song on this album is just daring hipsters to call it adult-contemporary while simultaneously making a good impression on my mom.
But can this work? Can conventional pop structure, well-trodden lyrical territory, and familiar instrumentation bear good results? Mostly, yes. "Last Resort," built on a light acoustic guitar strum and vocal pairing of Doug Miller and Stephanie Davila, feels comfortable and on-the-porch-at-midnight worthy. There's an old couch quality to the song; it doesn't try to impress, but if you sit on it for a minute, you probably won't get up for awhile. Most songs follow the minimal bass line, acoustic guitar strum, and so-soft drumming set-up, and songs like the above-mentioned and "Why I Act This Way" excel. But such a strict formula can get boring in a hurry, especially with the band's patience and penchant for banal lyrics. ("I've been missin' you all day/ I ain't got nothin' else to say" sums it up perfectly.)
However, the few times the band uses their minimalism along with electric guitar, magic appears. "Four Tornados" leads off the album with the closest thing to a stomp the Winter Blanket will ever pull off, harmonica blasts, and Doug Miller's lyrical content, creating one of the most enigmatic tracks I've heard all year. For a song about being killed, the lyrics are ridiculously pedestrian: "He's chasin'/ I'm runnin'/ I'm hidin' afraid/ I'm going to be killed in New York state." And later in the song, when Miller whispers, "You call 911/ But the cops don't come/ They're in on the fix" like it's just another day; the affect is haunting, like somehow this crime is so beyond inevitable that only numb nonchalance can exist. Stephanie gets her own chance to shine electric on the mysterious and smoldering country-rock of "Darkness Failed You." Heck, her slowly and breathy drawl of the word "failed" is enough to keep this song afloat. And it's on those songs in particular (and on the pure Magnetic Fields of "Twenty-Five Now") that most kids will take notice.
"Yeah, but where do you want to eat? I think La Piazza is closed on Sundays..."
"Matt, who is this again?"
"The Winter Blanket."
"I think I really like this. That first song was a little angry, but the rest is nice."
"I'm glad you like it."
"Could you... uh... copy it for me?"
"Yeah. Is that okay?"
"Trust me; there's nothing I'd rather do."
1. Four Tornados
2. Last Resort
3. Why I Act This Way
4. Sticks and Stones
5. Darkness Failed You
6. Darkness On the Edge of Town
7. On My Own
8. Twenty-Five Now
9. Town of Talk
10. Wedding Vows