The New Year
I was a latecomer to the Bedhead party and actually completely missed hearing the group while they were actually together. I did discover The New Year, though, and despite their limited output find myself craving any new nugget they toss my way. The End Is Near is the groups newest 9 track offering, and like their previous and debut album runs a similarly lean 34 minutes. For a group that's about as no-frills as they come it's a fine running time and while it doesn't expand in any new directions, it's another solid set of music from a group who seems to take their time creating their music and not sway or be influenced by any outside trends.
In fact, the music of The New Year is very little removed from that of Bedhead. While there are some minor changes here and there, and overall the quality of musicianship has definitely gotten better (including some very elaborate timing signatures), this stuff still probably falls right into the slow core category if you want to throw down genre names. I'm not sure what's gone on the in the personal lives of Bubba and Matt Kadane in the past couple years, but if The End Is Near is any indication, it's not so good. This is one of the more straightforward and brutal assessments of people and relationships that I've heard in awhile, all set to vaguely dreary music that is pretty impeccable in construction.
The album opens with "The End's Not Near," and in delightfully dour lyrical twists, the group twists things around and throw a feedback-drenched party for those who smirk through their frown. "Sinking Ship" feels more upbeat in instrumentation, but again takes a pretty pessimistic look at people that it's hard not to identify with in places (I was personally reminded of the couple years that I spend post-college trying to find myself). "Chinese Handcuffs" is another of the more buoyant (if you can call it that) tracks on the release and shuffles along with one of the more odd signatures I've heard in some time, yet still works. It's another song of tough endings, and one of the strongest on the entire release.
Unlike Newness Ends, which seemed to sort of gain steam the further it went, The End Is Near seems a little bit more balanced. "Disease" arrives in the middle of the album and is as slow as any old Bedhead track while "Age Of Conceit" is one of the more spare tracks the group has done, building with pouncing drums before sharding off into a quiet passage that comprises nearly the whole song before bringing things back for a loud ending with multi-part vocals and a rumbling rhythm section. Only "18" gets a little bit out-of-hand in terms of length, running nearly 8 minutes as the second-to-last song on the release, but is saved by another nicely loud finish. All in all, the songs on The End Is Near aren't quite as good as the previous album, but it's definitely worth having if you're a fan. I'm past the point in my life where I can constantly listen to things as relentlessy downcast as this, but I know I'll come back to it for sheer craft.