Little Kid
A Million Easy Payments


4.3
superb

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
February 26th, 2024 | 37 replies


Release Date: 02/23/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And the sons of Jacob wrote an old refrain

Even though I was born and raised on the West Coast of the US, and now live on the East Coast, some of my formative years (four years of college and about three years after) were spent in the Midwest. As such, I’ll always have a soft spot for the region, even if the key to my heart ultimately belongs to my home state. The Midwest’s charms might be subtle, lacking many of the more obvious natural wonders which places like the Pacific Northwest and New England have in spades, or the proliferation of urban tourist destinations which draw visitors to the big cities on the shorelines, but there’s definitely a certain appeal to the area which becomes apparent with time. I still visit with regularity, drawn by the various ties that bind of friendship and family, and I’m always struck by how much nostalgia wells up each time from even the simplest things - the gentle and often very flat landscapes of fields and woods, unremarkable and unremarked upon, but beautiful nonetheless - or, in the cities, road after road lined by low, completely unpretentious, but distinctive houses. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous humidity of the summer months, which proves basically unbearable as a person who didn’t grow up with anything like those conditions, but simultaneously provide a unique quality to the season. In short, the Midwest is far from grandiose, certainly not a place which will jump out at you from a tourism brochure, but, given a chance, there’s undeniably an appeal in its strong sense of place, a comfort in its own skin, and, in the most overtly “Rust Belt” areas, a bittersweet feeling of still residing in a place which time has passed by.

Listening to A Million Easy Payments gives me a similar feeling - a curious combination of nostalgia for times past, understated beauty, and profound melancholy. Little Kid are actually from Canada, but never mind that inconvenient fact. They’ve been churning out music for well over a decade now, with this latest release marking their seventh full-length, and while previous efforts have been well-received, the group has never managed to accrue a particularly large audience. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as while Little Kid have covered a decent amount of sonic ground over the years, from the very lo-fi folk delivery of debut Logic Songs to the heavier slowcore/slacker rock of Sun Milk to the alt-country leanings of Transfiguration Highway, their music has never been particularly accessible in any of their incarnations, built around Kenny Boothby’s unorthodox voice and his distinctive lyricism - potent, brooding, and dwelling on tales of Christian spirituality, loss, and the travails of life more generally.

While I myself have been immensely impressed by the consistent high quality of Little Kid’s back catalog, A Million Little Payments might be their best offering yet. Blending twangy Americana, rustic folk, grim slowcore, and a backbone of gentle indie rock, its genre fixations basically combine every previously present thread in the group’s discography, while also seeing Boothby’s lyricism as good as ever, and featuring some of the finest instrumentals and richest melodies to be found in their whole oeuvre. While the album might feel straightforward at first, that feeling is ultimately rather deceptive, as with repeated listens there always seems to be more nuances to unpack. If you’d like a reductive description, this record feels like Pinegrove, Big Thief, and Bob Dylan got together and decided to make some music while leaning into Biblical imagery. While that prospect might sound alarming, in this case, it totally rules.

All eight songs on the album’s tracklist are excellent, managing to deliver upon Little Kid’s longtime specialties while also standing distinct in their own right. The mood here is a bit dreary and down-in-the-dumps, a series of grayscale stories which feel intensely human, often slipping into dejection but never surrendering, While one of the potential gripes of this album is that several of the tunes here amble along before being cut off abruptly, you can interpret this more positively as an approximation of the feeling of a train of thought being cut off by an interruption, furthering the “real life” feel of the music. The styles here run the gamut from the sparse - like the stripped-down folk/country of “Eggshell”, the slow and droning “Always Change”, and the delicate, weepy “Nothing At All” - to the more elaborate, including the (relative) epic that is “Bad Energy”, which relies on a quiet but utterly propulsive groove, or Beside Myself”, the conclusion of which features an absolutely manic interplay between the flute and the rest of the instrumentation. It’s noteworthy, too, that many of these tracks, particularly “Something To Say”, the aforementioned “Beside Myself”, and “Somewhere In Between” are quite catchy as well (if not always in the most immediate way), a quality which hasn’t generally been a clear strength of Little Kid’s material in the past.

The near ten minute closer “What Qualifies As Silence” shouldn’t go unmentioned. The lyrics are utterly riveting, while the subdued tune meanders along. As a last look, it’s a downer, but a clear classic. Boothby sings of seeking peace - “no more sirens at night, just the wind in the pine trees” but never being able to escape from the harrowing past - “see my dad in his chair, and the soil where he’s buried”. It’s affecting stuff, and fittingly so, after an album full of engrossing stories. On that note, this album contains a fitting closing comment in that line from “Somewhere In Between” - “you’re undecided if it’s a piece of trash or a masterpiece, probably somewhere in between” - turns out this album is whole lot closer to the latter option. Lonesome, contemplative, and packed to the gills with more than enough immersive lyricism, evocative atmosphere, and subtly enrapturing melodies, A Million Easy Payments should go down as one of 2024’s finest records. Much like the American Midwest, which I spent the first paragraph of this review waxing about, this album might not seem overly impressive on the first go-round, but keep with it. There’s a whole lot of value to be uncovered within.



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user ratings (22)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

My favorite album of the year so far (it's early yet) - I can't stop listening to this.



The singer's voice might be a turnoff for some, but if you can get past that, it's highly recommended for anyone interested in indie/slowcore/folk/Americana type stuff.

Hawks
February 26th 2024


86769 Comments


Can't wait to jam!

someone
Contributing Reviewer
February 26th 2024


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Still having a tough time with the vocals, but they are growing on me.



Sowingcore if I've ever seen one.

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice one Sunny, great review, we like this about the exact same amount (my score on my AOTY account equates to a 4.2!) - fave of the year so far, rare I say that about full strength sowingcore



'Pinegrove, Big Thief, and Bob Dylan' - yeah that's about right, sometimes I hear a little bit of The Antlers too maybe, his voice sometimes reminds me a tiny bit of the fella from Hiss Golden Messenger in down tempo/ballad mode

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The album I guess is depressive but...overall the sound is 'bright' to me, so a perfect contrast.



I feel uplifted by it, the compositions are quite long but never tiring/unengaging



They've hit a winning formula with this

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Thanks Doof! Yeah, I find this pretty dark, but there's enough life/vigor in the compositions and the lyricism to avoid being too one-note.



And I do think this is prime Sowingcore, Sowing just doesn't know it yet, haha.

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

He may not know it yet…but I bet he’s already feeling it all the same ;D



Keep reading people saying ‘Eggshell’ is a weak link…no way, love how that one breaks the flow in the most perfect way

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

I haven't followed any discourse around this album besides seeing that the RYM overall rating was very high, but that's interesting. Eggshell rules, but not sure where I'd put it in a ranking of tracks. This is a remarkably consistent album in terms of quality and each song seems to fit into the whole flow very nicely.

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

One of the most natural feeling full listen albums I've heard in ages yeah, flows so well

Cygnatti
February 26th 2024


36017 Comments


Little Kid A

DoofDoof
February 26th 2024


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You have to be careful saying how much you like this band in public

someone
Contributing Reviewer
February 26th 2024


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Hiss Golden Messenger also came to mind



also Langhorne Slim, a little bit Quasi, and an even more nasally David Berman but if he was really trying to stretch his singing

hel9000
February 27th 2024


1526 Comments


Will check, Little Kid are usually solid

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 1st 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Don't pass this one by, boys and girls, it's got wonderful replay value and a lot of merit

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2024


26052 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ooh ooh will cheq (:

Araz
March 2nd 2024


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love.

Araz
March 2nd 2024


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can't imagine the singer's voice be a turnoff for anyone. It's sweet, smooth and fits perfectly with the rest of surroundings, right? Right.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

@Araz, I don't disagree myself, but I know it's kinda "different-sounding" and a fair amount of reaction to previous Little Kid albums have included listeners struggling with it, so does seem like a hurdle to some.

neekafat
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2024


26052 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wowee zowee this is good



And i love the vox!

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2024


5833 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Nice, neeka! m/



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