The New Year The End Is Near

Former Bedhead leaders Matt and Bubba Kadane return with their second album as the New Year, an off-kilter art-rock band whose music blends fragile balladry with contemporary post-rock in the tradition of Slint. Much like its predecessor, 2001’s Newness Ends, the thematically connected The End Is Near begins quietly with the smugly titled "The End’s Not Near” and the lovely "Sinking Ship.” While the third song, "Chinese Handcuffs,” is similarly mellow to start with, the arresting bass and drums are soon joined by intricate, interweaving guitars that suddenly and unexpectedly swell to a riotous din. At this point, listeners can expect similar quiet-loud dynamics throughout the record, whose bursting quality is artfully nurtured by engineer Steve Albini. It’s a dynamic Albini has supervised many times before, perhaps most notably on influential records made by the aforementioned Slint, whom the New Year must surely call upon for inspiration. The label alumni comparison is drawn due mostly to the Kadane brothers’ tendency to speak-sing their songs with the same sense of dry isolation employed by Slint vocalist Bryan McMahan, but there are parallels in the band’s musical arrangements as well. By no means meant as a disparaging comment on the New Year’s sound, the association is merely a one-word road map to the band’s complex musical approach. Fans of early Pavement may also be drawn to songs such as "Plan B” and "18,” which stray from the tighter elements of the New Year’s music and alt-cool vocals, instead embracing sloppy guitars and swaggering resignation as a means of attack. The End Is Near is a bold and consistently surprising sophomore effort and fans of both Bedhead and Newness Ends will surely be enthralled by the latest document of the New Year. (Touch and Go)