The quavering amiability of Kyle Field’s backwards, barroom voice lies somewhere beyond its unsteady boundaries. There’s a smirking rebellion to all things Little Wings that’s endlessly appealing, a knowing quality that’s genuinely interested in slippage — the space between language and meaning, signifier and signified. Field glides by on his threadbare falsetto, delivering phrases with innocent solemnity, like a child who sings with determined pleasure for no audience but themselves. But he’s far slyer than a child, reciting potty humor for the lowbrow thrill, mixing it with sage wisdom, rendering both meaningless, or equally valuable. For all the fascination of his phrasing, howling, and head-voice mania, it’s the lyrics to Little Wings’ songs that are the most baffling, mesmerizing. He’s someone who you’re afraid you aren’t listening to right, like a deeper meaning to each specifically banal phrase is lurking just behind the words themselves.
On his new album as Little Wings, Explains, I get the uneasy sensation that Field is singing toward a significance that’s just beyond my comprehension. “The edge you know, I’m close to it/ And all the while the clothes won’t fit,” he sings on “Old Apocalypse Style,” spearing straight through psychic struggles and dysmorphia, walking a tightrope of everyday thoughts and universal discomforts. On album closer “Where,” Field erupts and spews imagery like he accidentally stumbled upon a fount of words, and he can’t stop drinking phrases up, pouring them back out. Whenever that hound-dog howl drones on too long, though, there’s a country orchestra waiting in the wings, eager to butt in with baroque flourishes that rival Spacebomb in their elegance. “Go away, but in a way that sounds nice,” he fumbles out on “Around This World,” mimicking our shoddy attempts to spare the feelings of others without driving ourselves crazy. After those niceties are out of the way, this song becomes a revolving waltz, affixing its attention to the starry sky for slow, folksy blues. “Light Brang” and “Fat Chance” mess with verb tense and improper grammar, sardonically exposing it as a class signifier, calling into question the whole concept of “folk” in the process. Or maybe he’s just poking fun? Explains is sardonic, mundane, and finally transcendent; a collection of musings meant to stave off despair, boredom, or apathy. It’s a glut of junkyard diction and grim mortality spooled out in droning pastoral form. Listen.