Little Wings’ Kyle Field has never really left the comforts of home throughout his discography. His new album and first on Woodsist Records, though, secures his position as one of the prime examples of the Northern California sound. Explains is not a departure for Field, but a delicious entrance into his world structured in a way that’s easy for newcomers to grasp.
“Light Brang” makes a heavy nod to “Light Green Leaves” from Field’s 2002 album-of-the-same-name, a song that established his formula. The distinct feeling that the earlier song generates — entering a twinkling dream state in a field somewhere up the coast — has come to embody Little Wings.
Field’s records can be difficult to give a consistent listen from start to finish because of his nontraditional arrangements and unconventional vocals, but Explains hits the sweet spot. Accessible lyrics float just above layers and layers of dreamy melodies. On “Old Apocalypse Style”, Field waxes poetic about themes of identity — his own, those of others, and the journey between reality and some other magical place. “I can’t show my face/ ‘Cause it’s a face that never shows,” he croons, backed by blissful and jittery instrumentation.
The arrangements are lush; each song harbors Little Wings’ signature breathy organ, but the addition of harp, flute, shimmering cymbals, and soft drums elevates it out of the ‘70s and into a more otherworldly dimension. Not a hint of technologically altered sound finds its way into the production of this record, but rather than drawing upon nostalgia, it reflects Little Wings’ experience with the natural world, not unlike Bill Callahan or Joanna Newsom.
Explains can cause the world to slip away entirely. When done listening, you’ll have to claw your way back to a cold, harsh reality. Little Wings will be waiting in the wind when it’s time to forget the daily doldrums. Sometimes the world just needs a good open field and an album like this one.
Essential Tracks: “Old Apocalypse Style”, “Light Brang”