Splendid Ezine

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meg
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Splendid Ezine

Postby meg » Thu May 08, 2003 2:18 pm

This actually appeared back in March, but I haven't seen anyone link/post it.

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Spendid E-zine reviews: The Long Winters: When I Pretend to Fall
http://www.splendidezine.com/review.html?reviewid=325580000096120

The Long Winters were formed by John Roderick, a one-time member of Western State Hurricanes and Harvey Danger. Before starting this particular group, Roderick spent six months walking through Europe, which hints at a certain amount of (at least temporary) emotional instability, as well as a wry strength. Listening to When I Pretend to Fall backs that up.

This time around, Roderick hasn't published former girlfriends' letters in the CD's liner notes as he did with The Long Winters' last album...unless, of course, you count the lyrics, which are absolutely brimming with relationships -- broken, whole and in-between. It's a rare songwriter who can cover that topic without sounding whiny, and Roderick is one of the few. "Nora" has him lamenting the fact that his significant other "Wonders if I'll ever be / Who she dreamed I'd be / But she never says I love you till I say I love you / Like we're exchanging hostages." The lyrics aren't the only reason this is one of the album's best songs; it's both pretty and menacing, with droning organ filling in the low end as a piano melody tinkles over the crashing cymbals.

The Long Winters' songs are deceptively simple, catchy but creative. The plonky electric piano-driven "Blue Diamonds" is a magnetic introduction to the album, but it's only when you really listen to the individual parts that you realize how much talent -- and work -- went into it. When I Pretend to Fall seems divided between straightforward and cinematic; you have the orchestral controlled-chaos of "Blanket Hog", which shifts into "It'll Be a Breeze"'s carefree Americana without the slightest sense of conscious genre-hopping. Even Roderick's vocal style changes from song to song: casual sincerity in "Cinnamon", conversational sarcasm in "Prom Night at Hater High", "Bride and Bridle"'s world-weary rasp. Yet the band has a completely distinctive sound.

Roderick pronounces his words so clearly as to render the CD's lyric booklet unnecessary, which in this case is a good thing. Whether hostile ("I'd cut you not just with words"), funny or heartfelt, they're clever and evocative without drawing too much attention away from the music.

The Long Winters are unique because they don't stick with one side or the other: they can be charming, or they can be musically ambitious. Their fun-loving side is just as impressive as their serious side. Either one is good for listening.

-- Sarah Zachrich

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