I recieved a promotional copy of the upcoming album from The Long Winters entitled Putting the Days to Bed (Barsuk) a few weeks ago, and I've just been loving it. MammothPress.com will be running a promotional campaign with the band all through July, where you will be able to stream the entire album off of the site before it comes out on July 25th. The promotion will also feature an interview of MINE with John Roderick, the band's founder and principle song-writer, as well as the following review I wrote for the album. Be warned, this review contains plenty of spoilers:
The Long Winter’s are an interesting band, with an ever evolving line-up and a corresponding sound. On the band’s two previous albums, principle song-writer John Roderick has co-produced, working with some great producers to achieve a truly unique sound. But on Putting the Days to Bed John has finally taken the reigns completely. He produced this album himself in order to achieve a sound that was more loyal to his singular vision. Is anyone reminded of Billy Corgan? Well you shouldn’t be because John’s bandmates are all too happy to follow his vision, and it shows. The result is one of the most cohesive album’s ever produced by a small-label band, and one of my favorite albums of the year.
The album kicks off with "Pushover": a tender examination of the loving dynamic between a man and a woman. Complete with acoustic intro and mid-song guitar solo, it’s a truly revelatory song, and an inspired way to start the album. There are some terrific harmonies in this song, making it one of the more light-hearted songs on Putting the Days to Bed.
Next comes "Fire Island, AK", which is an intensely guitar-driven song. John’s vocals become a bit more biting on this track, expressing a rare range of personality which is totally infused into the song. It’s one of the more "rawking" songs on the album.
"Teaspoon" features a great horn section, which complements the guitar in a way that doesn’t turn the song into anything like Ska, but still adds a lot of fun.
"Hindsight" is a slower, more sweeping song that’s all about just what it seems it would be, a relationship from the tail-end perspective. Something about the slower pace, and the large, built-up atmosphere of the music fit the feeling of the lyrics perfectly.
"The Sky Is Open" opens with a groovy bass line over what sounds to be a drum machine. This track features more electronic elements than any other song on the album, but almost doesn’t sound like it. The great bass line and the angel-chorus-like background vocals keep it far from electro-territory. It may prove to be the most...dare I say..."radio friendly" song on the album in this writer’s opinion.
"Honest" is my favorite song on Putting the Days to Bed, hands down. It opens with a powerful bass line and delicate acoustic strumming, meshing contrasting sounds in true Long Winter’s fashion. From there it goes on to detail a conversation between a daughter who’s in love with a singer in a band and her mother who’s been there before, sixteen years before. It’s difficult for me to tell for sure if the song is inferring that the daughter is the product of her mother’s short-lived love with a singer sixteen years before, but I like to think of it that way. This song boasts one of John Roderick’s best vocal performances.
On "Clouds" the beat plods like a steady train; just one of the ways the song channels an alt-country train ride feeling. This is also noticeable in the echo delay on the electric guitar and the close harmonies on the vocals. It’s a fitting mood for a song about adventure, dreams, lofty goals, and...a relationship.
The biting vocals come back in on "Rich Wife" were the singer addresses a woman who’s in love with a man she "doesn’t like". The unsympathetic singer lays into her for her discontentedness and indiscretions, with harshly delivered lines and a sarcastic sounding chorus that’s carries all the "snarkiness" that John Roderick is unashamedly known for.
"Ultimatum" comes next, but it’s not the arrangement you’ve heard on the Ultimatum EP. No, it’s a much grander arrangement, with more of a start/stop rhythm than the EP version. It really communicates the conflicted feeling the singer has about his love. Is it a better arrangement? That’s hard for me to say, so I listen to them both!
"(It’s A) Departure" is the hardest rocking song on the album, with a punchy beat, and ripping guitars. There’s even a moment where a legion of voices join John’s in a line of lyric that make it sound like a number from a musical being performed in a pub.
"Seven", the final song on the album, is definitely the "prettiest". It’s a song about missing someone, and couldn’t be more sentimental if "Dear John" letters and baby tears rained down on you when you listened to it. It’s a fitting end to the album, leaving the journey open to begin again, like any great album does.
This album is like one of those movies that just screams "sequel", which is not to say that it doesn’t leave you completely satisfied in the performance of the band. It simply leaves you wanting more because it’s so good. But let’s give The Long Winters a rest. If I had just finished an album this personal and amazing I wouldn’t be knocking down the door to get back into the studio right away.
The Long Winters - Ultimatum (EP Version)
The Long Winters - Blue Diamonds
The Long Winters - The Commander Thinks Aloud