The Winter Blanket – Hopeless Lullaby

The Winter Blanket
Hopeless Lullaby

This may be the best album Low never recorded. But wait a minute, that’s not entirely true. Alan Sparhawk of Low produced and recorded the debut full-length by The Winter Blanket, and both he and Low’s Mimi Parker contributed guitar and vocals on several songs here. So Low had a hand in this album, and comparisons to Low can definitely be drawn, but I think the more acoustic style of The Winter Blanket serves to differentiate the two bands.
The Winter Blanket was formed by Doug Miller of the midwest band Darling. The band plays acoustic-focused slow-core style music, often quite sparse and haunting but also with moments of Nick Drake-style guitar and drums. And with Stephanie Noble’s female vocals to mix with Miller’s, I draw closer comparisons to Ida than Low on many of these songs. And with sometimes haunting lyrics about heartbreak and melancholy, the songs take on a greater power. They’re calm and sedate and often quite lovely, which goes a long way.
“Two Questions” starts off, and immediately I’m thinking Low. The guitar is incredibly sparse, and Miller and Noble’s vocals trade off soft and richly melodic. The song picks up a bit but never strays far from very sparse, slow moodiness. “There is Nothing to Worry About” is probably my favorite track, using piano to get a bit more upbeat and slightly poppy, and Miller’s voice reminds me more here of Drake. The 7-minute “Chicago Girls” gets back to the slow-core leanings with a soft, deeply moving song that makes up for its sparseness with lovely guitar and piano. There’s some lovely electric guitar and piano for several minutes of this song, a beautiful mix. And while this song has many of the best Low features, “Palisades” reminds me of the prettier Ida songs, the vocals here an emphasis. “Glass Windows” is another glorious male and female vocaled slow-core song, just beautiful in its simple lyrics, its sparse melodies and lovely harmonies. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s vocals really add a nice touch to the almost 8-minute “The Tired Horse,” a song that exemplifies all the styles here: both soft and sparse and lovely one minute and more poppy and upbeat and guitar-focused the next. The closer, “Hopeless,” resembles its name, with sad lyrics and a very sparse acoustic guitar behind Miller and Noble’s harmonies.
I like this album quite a bit, for it contains the best elements of bands like Low and Ida: beautiful male and female harmonies, melodic acoustic and electric guitar, sparse structures and an emphasis on beauty. And while The Winter Blanket isn’t a carbon copy of those two bands by any means, they do have some similarities that will make the band an instant hint with Low and Ida fans. This is definitely worth checking out for fans of the more slow-core style bands.