by Mia Hughes
Transfiguration Highway, the newest album from Toronto indie-country outfit, Little Kid, opens on a track called I Thought That You’d Been Raptured. It describes the song’s narrator, a hard-working father, coming home from work early to see his partner’s clothes crumpled up on the floor, and assuming that the rapture has come. Why, he wonders, was he left here on earth? He’s never been a perfect Christian, he admits; but he’s provided for his children, and he’s been loyal to his wife, and he’s given up smoking. How could he be left down here, while she has ascended to heaven? Investigating the scene further, he follows the trail of clothes, to find that Judgement Day isn’t here after all; his wife is just in bed with someone else.
Songwriter, Kenny Boothby, weaves religious imagery throughout Transfiguration Highway, yet never is it an album about God. It’s about us down here on earth, the ways that we love each other, care about each other, trust each other – or the ways that we don’t. With a similar sense of humour as the aforementioned opening track, Thief on the Cross, uses the Biblical story of the Penitent Thief to illustrate music scene dynamics; just as that thief asked Jesus to remember him upon reaching Heaven, so does Boothby ask his peers to remember the little band that once opened for them when they reach the gates of the industry’s kingdom. Its jerky lo-fi country groove accompanies Boothby’s wry humour well, fun but with a harsh edge.
Yet while he proves himself adept at funny, smart songwriting, the majority of the record sees him in a much more reflective and moving place. All Night (Golden Ring) is a leisurely-paced piano duet, with vocals traded between Boothby and bandmate Megan Lunn. The track is from the perspective of country singers Tammy Wynette and George Jones, who recorded an album together after their divorce; it’s poignant and heart-rending, as Boothby and Lunn sing: ‘They want us to sing them that song / About our love long dead and gone’. Made For Each Other, on which Lunn takes lead vocals, is crafted around another Biblical allusion, using the story of creation to illustrate the loneliness, the brokenness, of loving ‘your only missing rib’. It gives little away of who its players are, why Eden for this Adam and Eve is a summer home on Lake Michigan, yet the idea it sketches of a person bound to such a partnership is heartbreaking enough.
The album’s standout track comes towards the end with Losing – a song that warmly recalls classic folk rock. It’s exuberant, yet tinged with sadness, exploring as it does an idea of regret – from betting on a greyhound you immediately know will lose, to leaving somebody you immediately realise you truly loved. ‘Never much for playing, but we’ve always had a way with losing,’ is the song’s final takeaway, notably switching the ‘you’ sang on the same line earlier in the track to ‘we’. In this, there’s almost a bond of shared failure; of becoming less lonely, feeling more human, with the knowledge that someone else has fucked up the same as you.
Transfiguration Highway is an album that captures the feeling of shared humanity perfectly. The bonds we form and the love we share: they guide us, for better or worse, more than any divine force could. It’s a grand statement, but Little Kid make it at such a down-to-earth and human level – and not to mention with such great songs – that it’s undeniable. It’s a masterful record all round.
Secret Meeting score: 85
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