Thursday, December 18, 2008
This was an incredible year for Temporary Residence, the New York based indie label known for its extensive catalogue of seminal post rock releases, from bands such as Explosions In The Sky, Grails, Envy, and Eluvium, etc. The list goes on. Perhaps out of not wanting to be seen as the definitive record label for a genre that is fast growing stale and boring, TRLtd took big risks this year by putting out releases that could at once alienate their base of listeners and bring in a new group of fans altogether. They are not afraid to grow and change, in fact they know that they must in order to survive, and that was exemplified by their release of "Old Wounds", the newest album from Louisville-based Young Widows, which I have chosen for my #6 pick of the year.
Young Widows are another band often associated with their member's punk rock pedigrees. Guitarist Evan Patterson has spent the last decade and a half playing in some of the more influential bands in hardcore, including Black Cross (which he was in with brother Ryan Patterson, who is now the frontman of Coliseum), National Acrobat, and most recently Breather Resist, which bassist Nick Thieneman was also in. The band has experience and taste, and they're armed with a giant wall of custom made amps, telecasters, and buttoned up flannel shirts.
After listening to the first minute of the album, on the song "Took A Turn," there's no doubt this band is from the midwest, taking its cues from Chicago Touch & Go bands of yesteryear, such as Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, and the Melvins, yet transcending these influences to make a record that is unmistakabley their's. The hypnotic, heavy as shit, driving and sludgey bass pattern that lays the foundations behind Patterson's vocals for the first 45 seconds makes this song the perfect opener, and anyone who doesn't get a smile on their face when Patterson introduces Jeremy McMonigle's first beats on the toms by simply uttering "drums" needs to lighten up a little bit. Once the drums come in, they lock into the deepest, simplest, and most shitgrinning of grooves you have heard all year, and you feel a little different afterwards. They go through ten more tracks of what some have called "Indie Drone," whatever that means. At points, the album doesn't quite pay off or go quite where you want it to go, but the moments when it does make the rest of it completely worth it. My other complaint is that drummer Jeremy McMonigle(what a great fucking name, ps) sounds far less innovative, consistent, and takes fewer risks than their previous drummer Geoff Paton, whose skull-crushing, earth shattering grooves were 90% of what made their last album, Settle Down City as good as it was. But it's alright in the end, cause Patterson and Thieneman up the ante here and more than compensate, seeking instead to write solid, hypnotic, trance inducing indie grunge, such as the track "Swamped and Agitated," certainly one of the best songs of the year, sure to be on many mixtapes in the near future, and makes for the perfect closer.
To get more of a "live" sound, the band brought producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) on the road with them to record their live tracks, and through what must have been a painstaking mixing process, they put best live cuts of each part of each song onto the final product. At the end of some of the tracks, Ballou kept the crowd applause in the mix, which on each track sounds empty and underwhelming compared to the ear splitting dissonance that has just assaulted your ears. It sounds like maybe one or two people applauding politely, going along perfectly with the thematic content of the songs, with lyrics about alienation, emptiness, wanting to start your whole life over again, regret, fucking up, ie the lyrical content of most hardcore records of today and ever. While I still don't totally get the approach, I trust that somehow this process had a lot to do with the finished product being a great improvement on the sound they started honing on Settle Down City.
So anyway, swill back some PBR, put on your flanel, get out that old Kurt Cobain poster you've long since taken off your wall, roll a fat blunt if that's your thing, turn your speakers up as loud as they can go, put on this record, and prepare to be entranced. The packaging for this release is also impressive, with three different covers for the vinyl release, on many different colors. Temporary Residence should be really proud of this release, it will still be in my CD player well into the next year and beyond.
Enjoy the videos below!
"Old Skin," a fucking killer killer track with one of the best grooves of the year.
"Feelers" and "Swamped and Agitated"