Friday, Sept. 12, 2008

So This is The New Year('s self-titled album)

By Evan Rytlewski
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Saying The New Year's latest album was worth the wait is a complement of the highest order, considering how long that wait was: It's been four years since the previous New Year record. For the statisticians, that's a 25% waiting-time increase from their previous album, which took three years to materialize.

The Kadane brothers have never been ones to rush themselves, but this time the sabbatical has changed them. The New Year's self-titled album is the biggest leap forward for the pair since they disbanded their beloved slowcore outfit, Bedhead, and started The New Year, the ever-overlooked band that more or less picks up where Bedhead left off.

Fittingly, then, change is the central theme on The New Year, with song after song narrated from behind a steering wheel, as an unusually spirited-which is to say, not completely dejected-Matt Kadane sings of making new friends and solidifying existing relationships, getting out of bed and making the most of the few good years he has left in front of him. He's touted these goals before, of course, but this time he really means it, and he has the most driven album of his career to prove it.

The New Year's trio of guitars still mope, chime and swell, but this time the arrangements are brighter, and a newly prominent piano does much of the legwork (before this, The New Year had toyed with the piano only once before, to brilliant results, on 2004's "The End Is Not Near (It's Here)," an almost oppressively sad track that would later be covered by Band of Horses and serve as the title and motif for, of all things, "The O.C." series finale.) Despite the group's reputation for plodding slowcore, these 10 songs speed out of the speakers, and with the exception of the build-and-explode opener, "Folios," not a single one cracks the four-minute mark. There's even a happy ending of sorts: Like so many great indie-rock albums from around the turn of the century, The New Year ends with a barrage of squalling, redemptive guitars.

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