The New Year has always been a strangely energetic name for a band. Brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane’s previous group’s moniker, Bedhead, seemed much more suited to their style: understated, apathetic, and maybe even a little bit sexy in a bleary-eyed, bearded, plaid-shirt kind of way. Their reincarnation as the New Year has never sounded markedly different from Bedhead, and while the band’s third, self-titled release takes half a step in a more energetic direction, it doesn’t get very far. While some of the tracks on The New Year are piano-driven and feature more adventurous instrumentation, for the most part the brothers Kadane stick with what’s worked in the past, including recording with the famed producer Steve Albini. The album’s strongest tracks (“Folios” and “Seven Days and Seven Nights”) contain sleepy vocals blending into lengthy instrumental sections, with the band’s trademark dynamic control, complex multiple guitar arrangements, and unexpected waltz time keeping the songs from becoming soporific dirges. Matt Kadane sums up the album on “My Neighborhood” when he sings, “I didn’t change my course, I had the feeling I had all along: that I can’t surprise myself.” Fortunately, no surprises are really needed, as the New Year’s technique, while somewhat dated and profoundly unadventurous, still holds solid in all its sleepwalking, ponderous glory. This is still sleepy ‘90s indie rock, laden with lengthy Built to Spill-style crescendos of layered rhythm guitar, stuttering undistorted solos, and resigned vocals mumbling of disappointment, regret and boredom. Considering that most New Year’s days end up as contemplative gray mornings spent with a bottle of Advil and a vague sense of dismay, perhaps the name is oddly accurate after all.
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