The emergence of Iron & Wine and the Mountain Goats over the past several years has really opened the floodgates for lo-fi singer-songwriter types to inundate the musical underground, and there's two sides to that coin. One side is that very few of the albums that fit into that category are truly bad, the other, perhaps more problematic side, is that very few of those albums are truly good.
Simply put: Not everyone has the voice or storytelling ability of Sam Beam or John Darnielle.
The man behind Little Wings, Kyle Field, definitely has his charms, but as Soft Pow'r unfurls, it's clear he's just a step below.
There's no shame in falling short of such accomplished men, and the reality of it is that Field has done a lot right on the album. Singing lightly over a background of gorgeous piano strokes and delicate drum loops, the warmth in Field's voice comes right out in "Scuby." There's a subtle uncertainty in Fields' delivery, an uncertainty that's reinforced through the story being told.
Steer safely of the canyon, Scuby, once you find winter is the way / As we fear the wooden cities warning, all a blear waiting for the day Scuby's gone again. / So the sun slants in the windows, and three days of hanging take me over.In "Warming," Fields seems to have a bit brighter of a disposition, and his airy delivery is backed not only by a slightly more upbeat rhythm than had been heard before, but by a different point of view in his words. "We touch on the sidewalk in our warming, and I hear the words you're forming / In a song sent out by early morning it's quiet, it seems that no one else is here." There Fields has found a companion to help bolster his confidence, to see him through the uncertainty touched upon in "Scuby."
Not every song is a success, though. "Saturday," despite some absolutely gorgeous acoustic tones, sounds largely uninspired. Fields opts for a reserved falsetto during much of the song's duration, and it grates the nerves more than anything -- both because it's not in tune and because it's dissimilar to everything he had been doing prior.
Still, Soft Pow'r is a solid, though unremarkable effort. One that could strike your fancy one minute and leave you fairly unfulfilled the next. A little more of the former, and that's why this is still an effort worth your time.