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Grim Ingredients Form a Winsome, Pretty Package

On "Handkerchiefs," Winterpills' members make mournfulness sound sweet and soothing.
On "Handkerchiefs," Winterpills' members make mournfulness sound sweet and soothing.

Some songs have all the hallmarks of bleak dirges — themes of death and alienation, mournful harmonies, deliberate pacing, a touch of slide guitar — but an overall effect that seems strangely uplifting. Witness Winterpills' "Handkerchiefs," which stuffs all those grim ingredients into a winsomely pretty package that feels strangely sparkly, even downright lilting.

Matching the ideally matched girl-boy vocals of Flora Reed and Philip Price, "Handkerchiefs" isn't exactly the stuff of summer drives and beach parties: "A great divide / I didn't know her best friend died," the pair sings, adding, "Drawn in black-light chalk / her ankles tied in flower stalks." But the song gathers steam and snappiness as it progresses, morphing into an agreeably ambling pop number. It may bathe in pathos along the way, but it comes out smelling like spring flowers.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)