Release Date: Apr 28, 2017
Record label: Undertow Music Collective
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Slowcore
Time on a slowcore record somehow seems to move in hours rather than minutes, but what indie rock band The New Year does so well is make that introspective journey as pretty and memorable as possible. Snow doesn't sound that much different from their three previous albums, but it never hurts to stick with what works, and this, their first album in nearly a decade, is a powerful, understated and timeless rock album. The band was formed by the Kadane brothers, Matt and Bubba, who, as producers, songwriters, vocalists and guitarists, have often paired up on previous indie projects like Bedhead and Overseas (with help from producer Steve Albini).
The New Year are never ones to rush. Starting in 1991, brothers Bubba and Matt Kadane began Bedhead, one of the foundational groups of a type of indie rock so metered and restrained it was dubbed "slowcore." When Bedhead disbanded in 1999, they began the New Year, continuing to work in the same chiming, often melancholic sound, one based around intricately picked guitar patterns and muted, aching vocals low enough in the mix to feel almost like the voice of a spirit haunting the music. Fourth album Snow comes nine years after its self-titled 2008 predecessor, assembled carefully at various studios between other projects and the growing demands of everyday life faced by anyone still passionately making indie rock more than 25 years in.
In the wake 1998's Steve Albini-recorded Transactions de Novo, the band broke up. Split between Boston and Dallas with the grueling obligations of adulthood, the Kadane brothers seemingly reluctantly set out on a new project called The New Year. Where Bedhead captured wandering meditations on early relationships with a shimmering, reflective use of space, The New Year instead found the brothers swapping fuzz for more acoustic elements and a plainer, less impactful sound.
We'll probably never hear it, but Bedhead made a jazz album. As a palate-cleanser before the Beheaded sessions, the Brothers Kadane hit the studio, cut Thelonius Monk's "Misterioso" and a couple others, played it for a few tight-lipped friends, then buried it in the backyard. Bubba Kadane maintains that the record's not actually worth hearing, but that hasn't stopped the Kadane faithful--among the most quietly loyal fanbases in indie rock--from decades of speculation.
Consistently, gorgeously understated. Formed out of the ashes of 90s indie staple Bedhead, The New Year has seen former members Bubba and Matt Kadane carry the same brand of light, jazzy slowcore into the new millennium with admirable results. They've never had to match the cult-classic status of WhatFunLifeWas, essentially pacing their way through the 2000s with only four albums in seventeen years, each one good enough in its own right to hold us over until the next highly anticipated release. Snow is the latest record in that revered collection, and it comes nine years apart from the group's eponymous predecessor.
The New Year sidles back in after nine years, still wistful and articulate, still staring out the window into the pelting rain, still a little bit pissed at life, but in a wry, self-defeated way. The band, made up of Matt and Bubba Kadane, Mike Donofrio on bass and Chris Brokaw on drums, has spent a collective lifetime in indie bands, so the playing is very good, but offhand, as if they could do this in their sleep (and they probably could). As ever, no one is in any particular hurry, the songs drift by in lazy arcs of melancholy, guitar vamps smouldering at the edges and occasionally rather stirring, but nothing ostentatious.