Saturday, October 1, 2005

Records In Review: The New Year--Newness Ends

Newness Ends is the debut (2001) album by Texan former Bedhead guys Matt and Bubba Kadane (great name), now trading as The New Year on all major U.S. exchanges. The allmusic reviewer gives this one four stars. Not for the first time, school is clearly too cool for me, as I found this to be a very, very long 32 minutes.

The band's material alternates between song-form post-rock and langorous, sleepy tunes that bring to mind an indie Cowboy Junkies or a less-limber Red House Painters. I don't mean to use obscure references, but the rockier stuff does remind me big-time of Ganger, with its repetitive drum patterns, occasional crescendos, piling on of multi-layered and timbred guitars and prominent harmonized picked bass. Vocalist brother Matt has an "explaining" rather than singing kind of voice--think a lower-ranged and less whiny version of the Death Cab For Cutie guy--of limited range and projection. The instrumental prowess on display is modest.

The sleepy stuff has very little to recommend it, and it's unwisely stuffed all a-row in the middle of the disc. The best songs are "Reconstruction," a heavy minor-key and country-tinged 5/4 number that features a hypnotic and effective instrumental crescendo climax, and "Alter Ego," which is actually pretty similar in structure, but without the crescendo. The former, and the album opener "Half A Day" really do sound like snippets from songs on Hammock Style. I'd prefer it if all of the songs did. The rest of the louder stuff is pretty samey, and I even counted six songs in 3/4 out of the ten. If you consider that the two songs in five are really three plus two, then that's eight out of ten! I don't know what this means, but it must mean something. I have a feeling that when bands want to sound portentous these days, they tend to play in 3/4 or 12/8, but hey: I report; you decide.

Newness Ends is a fairly cohesive album, I'll give it that, but a pretty lifeless and deliberate one too. Recommended for musical subculturists only.