Review Summary: deceptivly simple, understated indie
I was lucky enough to see The New Year in London a few nights ago, and it was one of the two types of show I enjoy more than any other: small, intimate and laid back. And that seems to sum up The New Year’s sound in general. They’re not big and showy; they just write consistently accomplished and deceptively simple, understated indie songs.
A gentle opening with the piano and guitar led “End’s Not Near” is drenched in feedback and bitter cynicism as it reaches its conclusion, setting the tone for the rest of the album. “Chinese Handcuffs” is easily the highlight of the album, and possibly one of the best songs The New Year have put out to date. It builds on the unusual time signatures they often use, and a simple bass line, slowly introducing soft guitar lines and the most interesting vocal performance from Matt Kadane on the entire album, almost whispering “We’re not two peas in a pod, we’re two fingers in Chinese handcuffs.”
The consistency of the album is hard to fault, and though there isn’t a huge amount of variation, there’s enough between each song to keep you listening and interested for the half hour the album occupies. The only point where it wears a bit thin is on “18”, which is an eight minute long build up that almost doesn’t manage to be worth it, thankfully the rather loud close just about makes up for it dragging a little.
The album is relentlessly pessimistic and downcast, which can make it heavy listening at times, and as I’ve already stated there isn’t a great deal of overt variation or innovation (bar a few interesting tracks), but give it a few listens and you start to pick up on the subtle nuances buried beneath the apparently straightforward exterior and it really starts to click. I’m reluctant to repeat myself too much, but understated really is the perfect way to describe this record, and The New Year in general.