(Touch & Go Records, CD)
The New Year's members are scattered across the country like Yahtzee dice on the kitchen table, so no state can lay full claim to them. But when bassist Mike Donofrio traded in the bohemian trappings of Greenwich Village for the agrarian simplicity of the Green Mountains last year, central Vermont gained at least a partial stake. Donofrio landed in the capital area around the time The New Year's sophomore release, The End Is Near, appeared in stores.
The New Year also includes Matt and Bubba Kadane, who in the '90s championed an intense -- if slow -- brand of rock with their much-lauded band Bedhead. In reaction to the increasingly ferocious playing style of the hardcore punk scene, the Kadanes downshifted the pace of their tunes, yet maintained a wall of sound the size of their native Texas. Following Bedhead's demise in 1998, the Kadanes continued their slowcore fixation with The New Year.
Musically, The New Year's tunes lumber as steadily as an approaching freight train. Matt Kadane's low, inflectionless vocals pull you in closer, like whispered secrets; docile guitars gradually build into an enveloping flurry. At first this cacophony could be mistaken for indiscriminate fuzz. But heart-rending melodies soon tear through the sonic blur as the music bears down upon the listener, rattling bones and rousing the spirit.
Tracks such as "Sinking Ship," "Chinese Handcuffs" and "Age of Conceit" forgo this aural blizzard in favor of more immediately accessible melodies. However, most of the cuts only reveal their beauty upon repeated listening. While an initial pass through The End Is Near might sound like brackish clatter to the uninitiated, graceful undercurrents emerge with subsequent spins. A prime example is the album's centerpiece, the elegantly spare "Disease." With its pace-perfect progression and pointedly earnest lyrics, the song is simply masterful, minimalist indie-rock.
The New Year's sound may be better suited to dark, urban clubs than the breezy, foliated expanses of rural New England. But geography aside, The End Is Near is recommended listening.