Little Kid Announce Transfiguration Highway
LP Out July 3rd on Solitaire Recordings
Operating since 2011, Little Kid is Toronto-based band led by songwriter Kenny Boothby. Building a cult audience through performances with artists like Car Seat Headrest, Horse Jumper of Love, Fog Lake and Half Waif, and a prolific output of idiosyncratic home recordings, Little Kid announced their signing to Solitaire Recordings in April, their first time on a label, and shared a single called “Thief On The Cross” which received a warm reception, earning praise from outlets like NPR, Beats1, Line of Best Fit, World Cafe and Exclaim.
Now with the band announcing their debut LP for Solitaire, an album entitled Transfiguration Highway, they are sharing the album’s first single “Losing.”
Transfiguration Highway is a major refinement of Little Kid’s sound to this point, and “Losing,” which drew immediate comparisons from Stereogum to Neil Young, Whitney and Pinegrove, provides a clear example of the way the band have elevated their production and aesthetics for their label debut. A piano-driven indie folk track that wrings lush textures from its intimate, homespun arrangement, the song is, like “Thief on The Cross,” a precisely rendered character portrait, that highlights Boothby’s eye for songwriting detail. Verses that detail the experiences of two down on their luck characters experiencing two different kinds of loss, before giving way to a call and response chorus between Boothby and banjo/keyboard player Megan Lunn. Tightly composed and beautifully realized, it’s an engaging preview of what awaits on Little Kid’s forthcoming LP.
“This song tells two fictional stories about characters experiencing some kind of loss,” says Boothby. “In the first verse, the narrator’s friend loses their savings on a drunken bet on a dog race. In the second, the narrator expresses regret for choosing to leave a person they still find themselves in love with.
“Musically, the song is inspired by 60s and 70s Canadiana like Neil Young and The Band, and there’s a certain peppiness to the piano that hasn’t really been present in a Little Kid song before. It’s become a fun one to play live, even without access to a piano – moving things over to guitar really brings out the Neil Young flavour of the song.”
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There, he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”
“In my mind, the Transfiguration Highway is a road that runs from my hometown of Petrolia, through the small southern Ontario towns I grew up in, through to larger and larger Ontario cities, like London, until it reaches me here in Toronto. Along that path, there’s a movement from quiet to loud. From slow to fast. From God to godlessness. From unique and charming houses to mundane condos. The path then stretches on to the north and to the east to Marmora, a place I’ve never visited but one that I’ve become entranced by. I’ve come to view it as some kind of beckoning light further down the highway…”
In a shifting world, Little Kid’s Kenny Boothby finds himself inspired by this idea of transfiguration – a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. The band’s forthcoming album, Transfiguration Highway, is a thoughtful reflection on revelation and change, both spiritual and lived. Through the lens of a long standing fascination with Christian mysticism, the album title suggests a reflection of Boothby’s own process of personal growth, the way that growth has changed his perception of the world, and how that has combined with the material change of the world around him to alter the way his past relates to his present.
Operating since 2011, and now joined by Megan Lunn (banjo, keys, vocals), Paul Vroom (bass & vocals), Liam Cole (drums) and Brodie Germain (drums, guitar, percussion), Little Kid has performed with artists like Car Seat Headrest, Horse Jumper of Love, Fog Lake and Half Waif, and built a cult audience with a series of idiosyncratic home recordings, self-released in short cassette runs that range from more traditional albums and EPs, to 2019’s Botched Restorations – on which Boothby sold out a run of one-of-a-kind 60 minute cassettes that each contained 10 songs from his discography, chosen by the purchaser and recorded live to tape in his bedroom. For their latest, Little Kid has signed with a label for the first time, working with buzzing Brooklyn indie Solitaire Recordings (Kate Davis, Common Holly) to release an album that sees a rare songwriting talent deliver on the promise of his earlier work on an expanded scale.
While the album represents a path of self-growth, the fictional ‘highway’ in question can also be understood as a road to spiritual awakening. Borrowing from Christian mystic tradition, a transfiguration can represent the journey where individuals bear witness to miracles, seeing transfigured sites along the way that ignite spirituality in them. Although the album may not be Christian Music in any sense, Boothby’s songwriting often plays with this religious language and imagery to explore the important spiritual questions.
“The title track was written soon after a visit to Petrolia,” says Boothby. “It was the first time I’d been back in several years (perhaps notably my first since starting therapy), and it was the first visit where the town felt mostly unknown to me, and everything that did feel familiar made me deeply sad. I no longer saw my childhood home as the setting of many of my happiest memories. The movie store I used to work at in high school had closed down, and a lot of the unique restaurants and stores in town were being replaced with popular franchises. I was thinking about the ways my town had changed over the years, and the ways Toronto has changed so much in the few years I’ve lived here, and wondering what those changes are leading to – it certainly doesn’t feel like these places are moving in the direction of ‘a more beautiful or spiritual state.’”
These themes and his penchant for Christian imagery are deployed throughout the album in a variety of ways, often in contexts that display Boothby’s keen observational eye and sharp sense of humour. This is especially true of the roiling opener “I Thought That You’d Been Raptured,” which showcases an almost fabel-like narrative songwriting style from Boothby as he relates a story from the perspective of a character who comes home early from work to find his wife’s clothes in the living room and initially believes that she’s has been raptured, only to discover she is having an affair.
In “Thief On The Cross”, Boothby uses his biblical literacy toward a bit of joking self-deprecation. Positioning himself as the penitent thief who, while crucified beside Christ, asks that Christ remember him when He gets to heaven, Boothby repurposes the idea to address feelings of jealousy within music communities and the perceived obligation of more successful artists to help out newer ones with the line: “praying you’ll remember me / when you finally reach / the entrance to eternity / I played in that old three piece / we opened for thee / way back in 2015.”
Elsewhere on “What’s In A Name”, Boothby uses the famous line from Romeo & Juliet as a jumping off point for a rumination on the circumstances of his friends who have changed their names and how names may relate to gender identity more broadly.
On a duet with bandmate Megan Lunn entitled “All Night (Golden Ring)”, he explores the relationship between Tammy Wynette and George Jones on a track that is named for an album of duets (Golden Ring) from the two country singers who were also a real life couple. Boothby was a fan of the record but found his understanding of it unavoidably altered by its context, as the album was recorded after Wynette and Jones had divorced due to Jones’ abusive behaviour. The singers, after failing to find the same success thereafter as solo artists, recorded the album together for purely commercial reasons and it went on to become the first number 1 record of their career. “I was really saddened to read about that, and to picture how that must have felt for Tammy,” says Boothby. “I can’t relate directly, but as a survivor of abuse, I can only imagine what it would feel like to have to sing with my abuser, much less to have to sing love songs with him and act like everything is OK.”
Far-ranging in both its sonic palette and its subject matter, Transfiguration Highway is a record of unusual depth and clarity from a songwriter who has spent the better part of a decade honing his craft and a lifetime building the perspective his songs so deftly express. These are personal songs that look outward, that seek to tie together the bigness of the world and the smallness of the everyday with both subtlety and humility. For years Boothby and Little Kid have been quietly building a devoted following, but their Solitaire debut is a beautifully formed introduction to the wider world for an artist who will undoubtedly be recognized as a uniquely gifted songwriting voice.
Little Kid’s Transfiguration Highway is due out on Solitaire Recordings on July 3rd. It is available for preorder here.
1. I Thought That You’d Been Raptured
2. What’s In A Name
3. Transfiguration Highway
4. Thief On The Cross
5. All Night (Golden Ring)
6. Candle Out
7. Made For Each Other
8. Close Enough To Kill