For at least two years, friends told me I needed to hear Little Wings. I wasn't familiar with the name, other than the Hendrix connection, and put it in the back of my mind. Well, these same people kept insisting I must check out this band. It got to be annoying, so by the time I finally picked up "Harvest Joy," I had a bad taste in my mouth. Through a combination of insurmountable hype and general annoyance, "Harvest Joy" didn't live up to expectations and I filed Little Wings away as another overrated band. With some hesitation, and without the insistence of anyone I know, I decided to give Kyle Field's project one more shot. I acquired "Magic Wand" and all my initial thoughts were thrown out the window.
Kyle Field is the brains behind Little Wings, and the songs on his albums are distinctly his own. His voice is easily recognizable, and his music has a whimsical, avant-pop slant to it that will appeal to fans of multiple genres. There's a sense of nostalgia painted all over "Magic Wand," like Field was somewhat transported back in time to make this record. The aura of the late '60s is spattered all over this record, but with his fresh approach, Kyle Field teeters on the edge of spectacular.
"Magic Wand" does something that few albums I've recently heard manage to accomplish. It starts and ends remarkably strong. The opening track, "Everyone," is the best one here. With understated percussion that is doing little more than keeping time, Field's simple guitar and vocal melody stands out sharply. This song is all about the lyrics and the flow. "Your face is open sky sometimes, your chest a forest grown inside," he sings in his solemn, laid back voice. As the song moves along and slowly develops, it's like I'm sitting in a smoky coffee shop, watching an unknown musician wow unsuspecting patrons. This catchy piece is a brilliant opening to this record. It draws you in and makes it so you have to hear where this journey will lead.
In between the opening gem and the grand finale, "Darkened Car," are multiple high points. The title track is one such peak. Reverb-laced pedal steel gives it a Hawaiian, island-like feeling. On this deceptively simple track, Field adds subtle layers to include texture behind his excellent vocals. His voice glides alongside the pedal steel, and they perfectly complement each other. This is especially true when he sings at the top of his range. By the time the drums fade in, you're hooked like another fish without a chance. There's quite a bit of magic at work in this fantastic song.
The title track leads directly into the longest track on "Magic Wand." "So What" is something of an epic in the context of this album. For a song with an almost-circular structure, "So What" never gets boring and never seems to drag. It's a beautiful track based around Field's piano playing. As with many of these songs, the vocals and lyrics are the real focus. Considering this track sprawls over seven minutes, Field had to be at the top of his game to sustain the emotion and interest that proliferates the first half of the song. But its tension builds as it skips along. "So what is this perspective? It's a pinprick on forever. It's a sentence that is fading, such as tide, or wind, or weather," he asserts. It's one great lyric out of about twenty on this song alone. What has really struck me about "Magic Wand," is what a talented lyricist Kyle Field is. It's extremely impressive.
Other tracks throughout the middle of this record also stand out. "Laugh Now" and "Hanta Yo Three," in particular. But they are just a tease for the finale that is "Darkened Car." This short and sweet track brings to mind the ghost of Nick Drake. Field's deep, soothing voice barely hovers above the surface created by his quiet, acoustic guitar. This song is steeped in the whimsy that Drake's recordings personified. It is soft like down; it encompasses you in its warmth. It closes this album the way it should be brought to an end. It ends with Field promising that no matter what, he won't leave you. No matter what the circumstances, he'll haunt you forever. "If in time we don't speak anymore, you'll still feel me outside your door," he promises. I don't know about you, but after being convinced of Field's potential for greatness, I feel better knowing he'll always be around. I raise my glass to second chances. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)