It’s fitting that, on their third full-length EP, the Long Winters have a song titled “(It’s A) Departure,” because on the first listen, it sounds like exactly that. Compared to memories of their first two releases, Putting The Days To Bed sounds faster, harder, more… well, rock. What happened to the band that became known for such sweet, loving, melodic folk-pop? Well, as it turns out, they’re still there.
My first listen to Putting The Days To Bed was disastrous. Everything seemed to sound so choppy and loud compared to their previous efforts, which were just so simply and under-statedly beautiful. I thought it better that I not get the album (I first heard it streaming online), not listen to it again, and just wait out this “phase.”
But then I wisened up. Realistically, plenty of my favorite albums and songs took time to grow on me, and I read a post on Chromewaves where he wrote that he felt like this is exactly that kind of album. Indeed, on my second listen, I fell in love with the Long Winters all over again. Most of what I love(d) about them before is still here, if slightly revamped.
The Long Winters: “Fire Island, Ak” (download)
“Fire Island, Ak” is considerably more boistrous and full than most of their work, but they pull it off in a way that someone who hasn’t heard them before won’t think twice about this being the way they’ve always sounded. This goes for at least half of the songs — “Teaspoon,” “Rich Wife,” “(It’s A) Departure,” and “Sky Is Open” all sound like the Long Winters added more instruments and turned the volume knob up. I can’t help but at least partly attribute this to the addition of Nabil Ayers, formerly of West Coast power pop veterans Alien Crime Syndicate.
The Long Winters: “Hindsight” (download)
Those two changes aside, not much has changed. John Roderick’s voice, when coupled with certain melodies, can still shower you in affection and warm feeling before pricking you with a snide or bitter remark (or vice versa), like a cat that’s purring in your lap one moment and scratching you the next. “Hindsight” is exacly the kind of song that you’d want to put on a mix for someone you used to have feelings for, but are now completely over (in that way that you still kind of have feelings for them, but are doing your best to focus on the negative ones more than the positive). His words still produce imagery and metaphor that are much like early poetry as they are pop lyrics — the boat similie in “Hindsight” is especially forceful. Even musically, there are songs that aren’t dramatically different. The soft, simple ballads “Seven” and “Clouds” could have easily found their way onto The Worst You Can Do Is Harm or When I Pretend To Fall.
All of that said, I do have two complaints — one minor, one slightly more major.
Firstly, I very much prefer the first version of “Ultimatum,” the one that was on the Ultimatum EP. The new heavy, fast version that’s on Putting The Days To Bed just doesn’t seem to quite fit the sentiment of the song.
Secondly, the biggest thing lacking on this release is a big emotional stunner. More than almost any other artist, the Long Winters have been able to invoke emotional connections in me, in one song, that are stronger than most bands can do with an entire album. “Hindsight” gets to me the most out of all of the new songs, but nothing here gives me chills like “Nora” did the first time I heard it, and still continues to do every time I listen to it. Nothing knocks the wind out of my lungs like “Medicine Cabinet Pirate” can. The Worst You Can Do Is Harm and When I Pretend To Fall each had at least two songs like this (add “Carparts” from the first and “Blanket Hog” and “It’ll Be A Breeze” from the second), but only one comes even close on Putting The Days To Bed.
Despite this, Putting The Days To Bed is still worth hearing — but newcomers to the band should probably start with The Worst You Can Do Is Harm or When I Pretend To Fall before they throw this in the stereo.
A few notes:
Speaking of emotional connections to music, Py Korry wrote an interesting (and flattering [blush]) reponse to my Beach House post. Read it here.
Last night, Mita and I saw Roger Waters at Madison Square Garden (best birthday present ever, thank you Mita and Teneyke!), and tomorrow night I return to MSG to see Jimmy Buffett. Expect a hearty review of both in the near future!