This album is well thought out. No surprises there: it’s taken four years to pen and a whole year to put to disc. After 17 years in the music business, the first seven spent as ’90s Texas based indie-rockers Bedhead, Matt and Bubba Kadane have finally brought their trans-USA tape swapping to a close and released their third record.
Has it all been worth it? With a wait like that you’d be perfectly entitled to expect nothing less than a full-blown masterpiece, but The New Year’s latest offering doesn’t quite climb that high. To be brutally honest, it struggles to reach half-way.
You’ll already have checked to see if the player is skipping by the time the first chord shift arrives in introvert album opener Folios and it’s a shock to the system when vocals finally emerge about four minutes in. Blissfully simple yet unsatisfying bass coupled with summer-soaked acoustic guitar leads us through the record’s first and longest number.
Other tracks are perhaps not so self-indulgent. Off Days is a slightly livelier affair whilst Baby And Soul manages to stand as a nice little piano ballad without sounding overly pretentious. You’ll also have fun trying to work out whether you’re hearing a strange guitar or a plugged in distorted cello. For the effects enthusiast there’s certainly no shortage of tones on offer here (try and spot the one in The Door Opens that sounds like a Spanish flamenco player on LSD).
It all sounds dreary (or drugged) so far, but thought has clearly gone into this record. There is a minimalist quality to it that grows with each listen. Soothing patterns and layering, interlocking chords, background hums and buzzes (whether intended or not): all combine to leave a listening experience that’s just a few steps away from pure lounge chill-out. The New Year is by no means without its highlights.
MMV is another a charming piano based number, although the snare drum rattling in the background like a knackered rain-stick could be cut, and The Company I Can Get sounds like Weezer waltzing down a corridor hand in hand with British Sea Power. Granted, you could find that this grates on your soul after one or two listens, but if this is the stuff that floats you’re boat you might be on to a winner. At the same time, My Neighbourhood could either be described as ‘pleasant’ or ‘bland’ depending on which side you fall.
One thing this record definitely lacks is variety. With a work claiming to hold “the band’s most varied songs” it’s disappointing and surprising to hear so little diversity. Excluding the aforementioned Off Days, few tracks could be described as anything other than mid to slow-paced indie soothers. ‘Up-beat’ appears to have been forgotten at some point during the group’s four year’s labour.
Don’t write this off though. It’s repetitive but mellow, calming and satisfying even, and it manages to subject us to seemingly endless rolling guitar rhythms without boring us to death and without sounding too much like a group of arrogant oldies who have abandoned the necessity to write ‘good music’. Perhaps it’s the clever use of three guitars, perhaps it’s the subtle cross rhythms that dot the background or perhaps it’s just the band’s ability to write genuinely clever and interesting tunes.
Regardless, in the right kind of mood, The New Year’s third release offers a good choice of listening. Their upcoming US and Europe tour may be best enjoyed from the comfort of a deck chair though.