little kid – might as well with my soul

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

the discography and creative trajectory of the toronto-based trio little kid is all but woven into the fabric of this site’s existence.  the band’s landmark 2013 sophomore full-length river of blood coincided with our first full year of operations, and frontman kenny boothby took the time to discuss both that record and its 2016 follow-up, flowers, in great detail.  with last year’s sun milk and now its successor, might as well with my soul, self-released in the twilight of august, little kid have cemented their legacy as a pillar of this past decade’s vibrant online independent music community, their impressive catalogue providing the soundtrack to hours of existential contemplation.

for the majority of the band’s existence, boothby has been joined by the multi-instrumentalists paul vroom and brodie germain, who primarily staff the rhythm section while also contributing more textural parts, and, in vroom’s case, handle engineering, production, and post-production.  this well-established collaborative ecosystem allows little kid to thrive effortlessly across might as well with my soul; the loose one-two punch of “two invitations” and “love minus seven / no livin'” is at turns both raucous and meandering, steady pulses segueing to the next while supplemental timbres fade in and out of the texture.

boothby’s lyrical and vocal stylings have long been the principal hallmarks of little kid’s aesthetic, and might as well with my soul fares no different.  his wavering tenor is as comfortable against the syncopated drive of “in the red” as it is laid bare on “the only light,” with intricate narratives resonating amidst rather sparse word counts, sentiments punctuated by slight turns of phrase or unexpected confessions.  dialogue is also a strong constant; the aforementioned “two invitations” turns on repetitions of old adages, while “the fifth” is anchored by two successive questions, its soundscape swaying gently in the breeze.

if weighted lyrics are one central tenet of little kid’s core, then the other is, arguably, sprawling compositions not always interested in reaching their final destination, instead content to move laterally and explore nuances in the space presently occupied.  the standout cut “receiver” makes good use of every second in its six-minute run-time, boothby’s lead vocal as pensive as the piano that threads through it, while the penultimate number “your orange and blues” marinates in its ruminative melancholy, quickly becoming one of the year’s best country tunes.  as the final chord of “easy or free” (itself a powerful meditation delivered via mournful slide guitar) dissipates, one feels the weight momentarily lift off of one’s shoulders, and then presses play again.

might as well with my soul is out now.  stream the album in its entirety below.

danielle fricke – body

– featured images courtesy of sophie harris-taylor –

“album of the fortnight” is an occasional feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: the new extended play from danielle fricke.

Danielle fricke has been hibernating for the better part of three years.  the london, ontario, musician released her hypnotic full-length, moon, at the tail-end of 2015, its dozen tracks blurring the lines between glacial ambience and plaintive singer-songwriter stylings while precluding the lengthy silence that would follow.

last week, fricke quietly released BODY, a six-song collection of new material that functions as a cursory addendum to its predecessor with plenty of wonderful nuances to unpack.  the extended play’s front half is a familiar palette, its slowly-evolving soundscapes providing the foundation for fricke’s haunting vocal exercises.  “intro” is a sustained prelude, its twilight field recordings melding into intimate, ambient chamber music.  the strings’ hesitation becomes more pronounced as the track reaches its conclusion, anticipating the blizzard of white noise that blankets “everything,” fricke’s voice finally emerging from the fray and embarking on a tenuous expedition with a small group of synthesizers in tow.

danielle fricke.jpg

at the approximate center of BODY lies “enough,” a quintessential danielle fricke offering that is also the extended play’s lone moment of sustained clarity.  nearly seven minutes long, “enough” finds fricke’s voice unobstructed as she makes her plea against a backdrop of guitar arpeggios, a pairing that was her hallmark across moon.  squalls of distortion percolate to the surface in the song’s final minutes, aiding fricke in her farewell as she journeys on to the collection’s last three tracks.

“cold, blue, even” and “SRGNG” are such marked sonic departures for fricke, each in their own singular way.  the former is through-composed, picking up on the vestiges of “enough” and enduring two minutes of subterranean synth quakes before discovering a piano chord progression replete with wordless vocal motifs; the latter is a glitchy choral exercise, pitch-shifted vocal loops stuttering and restarting while low reeds pulse in the background.  taken together with the extended play’s brief coda, the final ten minutes of BODY go a long way to cement fricke’s experimental bona fides and to reward active listeners with layer upon layer of nuance.

just six songs in length, devotees of fricke’s signature brand of hushed, exploratory world-building would be remiss to hope that BODY is anything but a stop-gap, and that more music is on the way.  in the meantime, stream the extended play in its entirety – preferably with headphones – below.

little kid – sun milk

– featured image courtesy of the artist – 

“album of the fortnight” is a (recently revived) bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: little kid

This site has extolled the virtues of the toronto-based outfit little kid for much of its existence.  while still approaching the band largely from a recording-project perspective, kenny boothby turned in the heavy, complex river of blood in 2013; last summer, after a prolonged, somewhat frustrating period of dormancy, boothby emerged with the sprawling flowers in hand and a solidified line-up in tow.  the stability of having a reliable pair of collaborators at hand is perhaps what led to the comparatively quick arrival of sun milk, little kid’s fourth full-length album, which the band self-released last week.

although just seven songs long, sun milk is a daunting, though thoroughly rewarding, body of work to consume.  one must traverse all the way to its coda before encountering a track that dips below the five-minute mark, and even then, “like a movie” arguably makes up in gravity what it lacks in length.  an exploration of ambient missives and noisy vamps that began on flowers is whittled down on its successor, maybe not to a more precise formula but certainly to one that breathes with the ease of seasoned veterans.

a self-inflicted allergy to electric guitars that afflicted boothby throughout the duration of flowers is immediately vanquished on sun milk; opening number “the fourth” bristles with saturation, as does the album’s centerpiece, “slow death in a warm bed,” ushering in perhaps the flat-out loudest iteration of little kid yet.  for a band that has long relied on outsized dynamic contrast for maximum effect, this embrace of grit only makes tracks like the lo-fi piano ballad “fog” that much more potent, as if an aural equivalent of the prodigal son returned and immediately became the workhorse of the entire operation.

Little Kid Sun Milk Album Artperhaps as a reminder that songs do not solely exist within the vacuum of an album cycle, a recent track-by-track guide for gold flake paint deconstructed the various iterations that many songs on sun milk went through, sometimes over the course of years, before arriving in their presently-recorded form.  this copious vat of detailed information (highly recommended if this album resonates with you) serves to further underscore the immediacy that little kid has operated under: recording in quick, concentrated bursts, ensnaring whatever feels natural at that moment.

as little kid approaches a decade of existence, patience seems to be an overarching theme worthy of ascribing to the project.  the acquisition of both paul vroom and brodie germain as stable members – after years of a rotating cast of characters – has yielded two monumental albums in a row; as the songs on those aforementioned albums grow longer, they unfold with care and determination, and loose, meandering passages are seamlessly tightened up when the moment is right; the inner mechanisms of those aforementioned songs are a wonder to unpack, with arduous three-person synth wranglings, carefully-placed tape hiss, and poignant found sounds threading a lived-in, nostalgic narrative.

little kid is methodical, a songwriting refuge equally capable of volatile bursts of energy and muted, minimal passages of restraint.  with sun milk, the trio has crafted its strongest effort yet, a sprawling structure anchored by its sonic forebears and accented with intimate glimpses of a profound lyricist’s tireless explorations.  step inside and stay awhile.

stream and download a new little kid demo

little kid banda bit over a year ago london, ontario lo-fi artist little kid released river of blood, a ten-track album that frequently found frontman ken boothby intellectually grappling with concepts of religion and morality.  it’s a fantastic record and one that gets detailed more here in our 2013 interview with boothby.  now little kid is prepping a cassette release of demos from the river of blood sessions, due out july 29th through his bandcamp page.  the collection will also be available to stream and download that day as well, but you can stream “apostles” exclusively here at dimestore saints.  check it out.

 

interview – little kid

my first exposure to little kid was actually through a local channel; lo-fi heroes wisconsin built covered his 2011 single “should you want to leave” on their album maps ii.  fast-forward about a year and wisconsin built’s drummer, thom, tweets something about little kid and how great their new album is.  i’ll usually bite on thom’s musical suggestions as they generally yield good results, and this one surely didn’t disappoint.  river of blood is a fantastically-crafted album, and multiple listens have only instilled in me just how heavy the subject matter is.  i was fortunate enough to get a response from kenny boothby, the guy who holes up in london, ontario and churns out songs as little kid.  i asked him questions about recording methods, religion, and future releases, and boy did he deliver.  check out the transcript below.

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what initially sparked your interest in recording with four-track machines straight to cassette?  is this something you still stick with, or has your growth as a songwriter required more sophisticated tracking equipment?

it can probably be traced to phil elverum’s albums as the microphones and mount eerie, as well as godspeed you! black emperor’s (and their various side projects’) use of field recordings, which i was really enjoying a few years ago.  i think it was around the winter and spring of 2009, and i had a somewhat strange period in my life where i was digging up all sorts of weird tape recordings and photos from my childhood, buying half-functional tape machines, postcards, books, etc. at second hand stores, and essentially starting to assemble a big project without realizing it.  logic songs grew out of that eventually – that album is pretty strongly tied to the medium i used to record it.

my method of writing songs has changed quite a bit, mostly due to playing the songs live with a band.  i still like to demo the songs while writing them, using the four-track (mostly because it’s the only recording technology i somewhat know how to operate), but playing with a band has let the songs grow a bit more before recording the final versions.  it’s also allowed me to play with some sounds that i really enjoy but would be impossible to capture without enlisting other musicians (i’m a terrible drummer, for instance), and make use of the flexibility digital recording affords.  i really love the way brodie produced the new record – it’s very simple, in comparison to logic songs, and i think it lets the songs speak for themselves a little more than the lo-fi aesthetic would allow.

little kid started out as a solo project but seems to have shifted to more of a collaboration, with members of your live band contributing to your latest record river of blood.  do you think this shift will continue on future releases?

i’m hoping to record an ep or short album on my own some time in the next couple months, just for a change of pace.  right now, it’s just ideas and scraps, but i’m hoping to strike a balance between the 4-track sounds and the benefits of recording digitally.  i’d definitely like to do another album on the scale of river of blood again, though – recording with a band is a lot of fun.  there are plans for a new band with brodie and jessiah (who both played on the latest record) – more of a collaborative project – that will hopefully come to fruition later this year.  i’m really looking forward to that.  i imagine little kid will continue in various forms for the foreseeable future – i have friends who are great musicians that i’d love to continue to enlist for albums in the future, but i also enjoy the freedom of working alone from time to time.

 

many of your songs across your discography reference religion either explicitly or indirectly.  in another interview with you that i read, you seemed to think about religion in a more intellectual, theologically-based manner than in a strictly spiritual one.  do you see this self-awareness as a centerpiece to your lyrical structure?

yeah, it’s pretty difficult for me to write without some form of religious imagery sneaking in somewhere.  it’s the type of songwriting i’ve always connected with the most, and it definitely comes the most natural to me.  i’m planning to try to challenge myself to avoid religious references when writing songs for the aforementioned new band, but i imagine my songs for little kid will always focus on religion in some way.

religion plays a large part in your lyrical work, but who do you count among the most significant musical figures to impact you as an artist?

david bazan is definitely the first person to come to mind.  i grew up listening to a lot of christian rock (the majority of which was pretty terrible in hindsight), and his work with pedro the lion really changed the way i thought about religious lyricism.  he talked about some things on those pedro records that i had never heard discussed so candidly in christian music previously – sex, hypocrisy, doubting god.  i’m still a huge fan of pretty much everything he’s released.

leonard cohen’s also someone i’ve always admired for his mix of religious and secular (or sexual) subject matter, and he’s probably the most consistently flawless lyricist of all time.  at the time of writing the last record, i was listening to a lot of late ‘90s and early 2000s indie rock – modest mouse, built to spill, early death cab for cutie – and some more folk and country-type stuff like neil young, bob dylan, and gillian welch.

what are you listening to as of late that constitutes more of a guilty pleasure than anything else?

i guess the new kanye west album would fall into that category.  the guy is such an asshole, but he makes some pretty interesting records.

to date, river of blood has been released on a limited run of cassettes and cds.  are there any plans of future rounds of releases or a vinyl pressing?

yeah, we are still hammering out the details, but the wheels are in motion to get river of blood out on vinyl, hopefully sometime in the fall.  there’ll be an official announcement once we have more info.

 

with the addition of musicians and the larger sound on river of blood, little kid is starting to seem less like a recording project and more like a full band.  do you have any plans of touring as a live act?

unfortunately, a band tour is really unlikely; we all have a lot of different commitments.  i have been talking to a friend about a potential solo tour in the fall – just a few cities in canada and the states.  i’m hoping that will work out; it would be my first tour, so i’m definitely excited about the possibility.

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full band or not, little kid would be an act i would love to see on tour.  eau claire might be a bit of a hike from ontario, but i can always hope.  in the meantime, make sure to listen to river of blood in its entirety if you enjoyed the snippets above, and check out the rest of little kid’s discography, which is stashed away in the bandcamp link below.  the possibility of a vinyl pressing is also something i’m excited about; i’ll be sure to pass along the details on that when they surface.

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