(WeePOP! Records, CD, digital download)
There’s something both sweet and melancholy about winter days. In Vermont, we know that fact all too well, as we have a lot of them. It’s isolating to trudge along narrow, snowbank-lined sidewalks in fading afternoon light; to brace oneself, mummified in wool or Gore-Tex, against icy gusts; to face the steely inevitability of an endless succession of gray days. But there’s a flip side: snuggling under down comforters and flannel sheets while a storm rages outside is decadence. To huddle with friends in a small café and peer out ice-encrusted windows is to be part of an exclusive club. Old records, hot chocolate, dog-eared books — these small things make winter bearable, even enjoyable.
Our longest season has provided Vermonters inspiration for countless works of art. But rarely has the peculiar nuance of winter, its splendor and isolation, been captured so lovingly and succinctly as on The Shortest Days, the debut full-length from local bedroom-pop duo Let’s Whisper.
The band, an offshoot of local indie-pop heroes the Smittens, is composed of songwriters Dana Kaplan and Colin Clary. The record is a follow-up to a four-song teaser, Keep a Secret, released late last year. It is not only the band’s first full-length, but also the first full-length for noted indie-pop imprint WeePOP! Records. To quote Clary, “Yow!”
The album begins with a remastered take on “California Girls,” also the lead track from Secret. A snappy synth-pop beat lays the foundation for glistening electric guitar arpeggios and blooming organ sustains. Kaplan’s unadorned vocal delivery is pretty and vulnerable as she yearns for a missing lover with sunshine in her skin and flowers in her hair.
Kaplan’s innocent croon is the perfect complement to the ageless Clary. On “All Happy Endings,” she balances his boyish charm with playful teasing.
The title track is blissful pop melancholia. Ringing guitar softens a driving disco beat as Kaplan meditates on the small cruelties of winter. “Snow is covering this town, and there’ll be more, so they say,” she sings. “Trying to dig out that buried smile. / Could you help me find my smile?”
A reworked version of “Snowy Sunday Afternoon,” a demo from Secret, follows. While the spiffy new rendition boasts a more fully formed arrangement, the humble longing in the original, rough-hewn sketch is lacking here.
Following a nifty instrumental interlude, “When the Snow Falls” — imagine a guitar-driven, indie-pop version of Vince Guaraldi — the record closes on the eponymous track “Let’s Whisper.” Whimsical and breezy, the song is a joyful release, not unlike that first, soul-warming day of spring that (almost) makes one forget how interminable winter really was. In fact, if The Shortest Days has a flaw, it might be that it evokes winter in Burlington so acutely that it could become unlistenable when (if?) that day finally comes.
Let’s Whisper play 1/2 Lounge in Burlington this Saturday, April 2. The Shortest Days hits shelves Saturday, April 9.