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ultimatum reviews

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 6:30 am
by Liesbeth

The Long Winters, led by mastermind John Roderick, have ventured from their usual musical stylings, moving into what is, for them, at the very least, new territory. Ultimatum, their first release since their 2003 album, When I Pretend to Fall. Standing at six tracks, this EP is simultaneously soothing and engaging.

The opening track, "The Commander Thinks Aloud," a shadowing of this new sound, is poppy and piano-driven, with Roderick's vocals quickly taking a leading role in the piece -- which seems to be the most constant element across the EP. The title track, "Ultimatum," places Roderick's vocals afront a fine accompaniment -- one that emphasizes his dynamic, full-bodied voice: a folksy, down-home guitar and a five piece string combo, bringing forward Roderick's unique nuances. He uses a similar approach with live, acoustic renditions of When I Pretend to Fall's "Bride and Bridle" and "Ultimatum," performing the two pieces in what is an unarguably more raw construct.

What really seals Ultimatum is its lyrical content; at times, it is enigmatic and convoluted, yet at others, it simple and straightforward. Roderick sticks to a fairly straightforward style for the bulk of the EP: "A trail of shooting stars / the horses call the storm / because the air contains the charge." At times, however, he branches into slightly more bizarre lines found in "Delicate Hands": "The weight of this hairstyle's / making me lazy / I think I'm going to leave it / up all night / I want to feed you / butter-rum candy / But someone beat you / to me." In the conscientious "Everything is Talking," Roderick initially describes modern life ("My new friends have messages / They reach me wherever I am") aside what I must assume is a description of the ultimately eerie experience of having fans whom you've never met ("Namess friends / All know my name"), before delving into some strange sort of moral dillema surrounding, perhaps, the growing artificiality of our food supply -- and maybe some sort of future integration of robots into our daily lives ("I won't eat a machine / But what if it asks me? / What if it says my name?").

At any rate, Ultimatum is, hopefully, a sign of things to come for The Long Winters and their upcoming full-length, planned for early 2006.

Re: ultimatum reviews

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 9:10 am
by Yarn
because the air contains the charge

Remember this discussion around this line? I totally heard "charm" at first (and for a long time), but now I definitely hear "charge", maybe that's becuase it makes way more sense.

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 9:34 am
by Jeannette311
Yarn, I also heard "charm", and wondered WTF? Now that I listen, I hear "charge". This is why I love liner notes so very much.

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 12:22 pm
by zach
Now you'll never be able to hear anything else. Strange how that works.

Posted: Sat Sep 24, 2005 8:34 pm
by Jeannette311
zach wrote:Now you'll never be able to hear anything else. Strange how that works.

I know! Ever since that book about famously misheard lyrics came out, I either hear alot of the lyrics wrong, or hear them right for the first time.


Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 8:02 am
by Liesbeth
The Long Winters is a fitting name considering that John Roderick, singer, guitarist, songwriter, and overall ringleader of this act grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. For anyone who lives up north, you know that those long winters force one to resort to the inner-most workings of the soul and spirit, requiring a certain amount of creativity and insanity to survive until the ice begins to melt.

The name suggests something more melancholic and subdued, and a place is found for these moods through TLW’s music, yet for the most part this band sticks to a funky, eclectic sound, incorporating violas, cellos, an abundance of synths and percussion, and the aching sound that follows after you’ve been hung up on.

Last year, The Long Winter’s “Future Mix” off The Commander Thinks Aloud was featured on “The Future Soundtrack For America” (also on Barsuk Records) a less umm… futurist, but nonetheless quirky-version of The Commander opens the Ultimatum EP.

I can’t say enough about the title track, (“Ultimatum” for those of us who are less observant) and it’s mournful quality among cellos and violins with words that play out like a humble confession to an ex-lover. The ‘live’ version, also on the EP is just as breathtaking.

Maybe the only time that The Long Winters disappoint is on “Everything Is Talking,” where the lyrics are good but the song itself feels empty, lacking the flow and intrigue of Ultimatum’s other five tracks.

At times it sounds as though Roderick is leading a battle cry of emotional experiences. It’s a pure lust for soul and passion that captures you as he expresses his intense want to “…feed you butter-rum candy” and then you’re left sitting there going, “yeah I know exactly what you’re saying, I know how that feels man.”

The Ultimatum EP proves the age-old saying true: it’s all about quality not quantity.
By Kiki Alexander

Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2005 8:13 am
by Liesbeth
Current episode # 98 of Dailysonic features The Long Winters, about 27 minutes into the broadcast. It features part of Bride & Bridle and Ultimatum, and a spoken review of the ep.

If #98 isn't on the mainpage anymore, try the archive link:
Dailysonic archives

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:10 am
by Liesbeth
not a review as such, but the LoudSpeakers At InternmentCamp blog has a description in a topic called One Sentence Thoughts On 10 New Records, which I find intriguing

Don’t let the crits lead you to believe that since this record has some remote similarities to Coldplay’s efforts that you should label them as a wannabe and write them off as this EP will hold it’s own.

Coldplay? Mind you, I haven't heard the EP yet, and I'm not too up to date with Coldplay, but still, not a connection I would make.

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:20 am
by Liesbeth
a review/concert announcement from a couple weeks ago on Nashville Scene

Wednesday, 21st

THE LONG WINTERS The new single by this Seattle band is called “Ultimatum,” a number that is as haunting as it is presumptuous, as beautiful as it is condescending. “Student,” the song begins, “why do you dream of me? It was agreed I came to burn leaves. It’s all I ever claimed to do.” It takes a kind of audacity to refer to an affair with a lover whom you so neatly and summarily define as “burning leaves,” yet it is this audacity that has made The Long Winters’ last two albums so compelling. When frontman John Roderick sang “I’m gonna miss you so much” on “Unsalted Butter” (from 2002’s The Worst You Can Do Is Harm), everyone, except maybe the person being sung to, knew it was a lie. On “Ultimatum,” he sings, “My arms miss you, my hands miss you.” The implication, of course, is that I don’t miss you. Guys like me never do. Unsympathetic characters, take heart. The Long Winters continue to take up your cause. Ryman Auditorium —STEVE HARUCH

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 10:35 am
by Liesbeth
and for good measure:

Ugh. Over-sensitive singer/songwriter crap that borders on indie rock and adult contemporary. Barf.

this is from the New Punk Reviews page of READ Magazine

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 3:26 pm
by Yarn
Coldpay? Really? I read way too many music reviews, and more than their share have been about the Long Winters- never have a hard a Coldplay comparison, and this EP sounds NOTHING like Coldplay- in my humble (but extremely accurate and correct) opinion, of course!

Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2005 10:58 am
by Liesbeth
amazon editorial review:
Seattle-based smartypants rock group the Long Winters leap into a less indie-rock void on this excellent EP. Imagine a swarthier and keyboard-driven Death Cab, or a less mournful Eels wrapped up in Mellotron goodness. While some fans might still bemoan the lack of funnyman Sean Nelson's presence in the band, Laura Veirs' producer Tucker Martine helps Roderick achieve a new greatness. As Rodericks's charming and idiosyncratic voice becomes ever more central to the Long Winters' music, so do his lyrics. They're a beguiling combination of post-collegiate songster poetry ("Crave translates into slave, no one can harness the rain"), post-Pavement slacker nonsequitur ("The weight of this hairstyle's making me lazy") and post-marijuana sci-fi treatment ("I won't eat a machine / But what if it asks me? / What if it says my name?") The twenty-five minute EP ends with two tracks of Roderick performing solo. It's all pretty great. --Mike McGonigal

Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2005 11:03 am
by Liesbeth
and another review on Blogcritics, posted by Timothy Jarrett:
It’s difficult for me to write an objective review of the new Long Winters EP, Ultimatum, because I can hardly bear to listen closely to the first track. It’s not that it’s bad—far from it—just wrenching. “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” which appeared in an electronically remixed form on Barsuk’s Future Soundtrack for America compilation, is a moving meditation on the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia from the point of view of the crew. It makes me think that John Roderick must have been doing the same thing I was that February morning in 2003: saying “no no no no no” to the radio and weeping for our future. The final coda, “The crew compartment’s breaking up,” is almost unbearable in its stately majesty.

The rest of the EP, coming two-plus years after the band’s sometimes rollicking, sometimes touching triumph When I Pretend to Fall, is consistent in gravity and musical excellence. The cover image, of falling sere leaves, is appropriate: this is autumnal music.

The melancholy of autumn is there in lyrics of the title cut, though it’s kind of a juvenile melancholy with echoes of Cummings and even Simon and Garfunkel: “No one can harness the rain/And I can make myself into rain/You’ll feel me on your cheek/And on your sleeve” is reminiscent of nothing so much as “Kathy’s Song.” The same echoes recur in “Delicate Hands,” which has one of the finer lines of regret I’ve heard in a pop song recently: “I want to feed you/butter-rum candy/But someone beat you/to me.”

The final two songs on the EP, live solo Roderick performances of “Ultimatum” and “Bride and Bridle” from When I Pretend to Fall, solidify the impression of a band in a more reflective place. The band has gone through a fairly tumultuous history in its five years, with an eight-member “emeritus” list on its official bio page (to be fair, many of them were touring members or producers only, and one—Sean Nelson—has his own band to look after. But Ultimatum makes the case that John Roderick in his own right is a substantial talent and that in the context of this band he can produce some genuinely moving stuff. A big impact from a short release. I’m looking forward to hearing the full-length, due out next year.

This review also published at Jarrett House North.

Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2005 11:17 am
by Liesbeth
Stylus Magazine:
With its lines about "boys and girls in cars" and the ability to "touch the sun," the Long Winters' Ultimatum EP opens by signifying cheese, until you notice the song title: "The Commander Thinks Aloud." With this post-Elton space/distance meditation, songwriter John Roderick brings in a warm folk sound—forgoing the pop—to mark a shift in direction for the group. Chamber strings define the first two tracks, but "Everything Is Talking" offers a more electro look at technology and solitude. The acoustic-guitar and vocal live tracks the close the album ("Ultimatum" and "Bride and Bridle") increase the sense of intimacy, but the versions add little to the songs themselves, in part because the production needs improvement. Forget them, though, and concentrate on those strong first three numbers.
[Justin Cober-Lake]

Posted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:15 am
by Moni
Nice collection, Liesbeth! (I hope that snowblower-tee fits you!)

another one, from

Usually, we don’t catch a glimpse of bands during their formative stages, either as wet behind the ears or in the transitional spot between a fading style and the start of a new one. The Long Winters unveil the inner workings on Ultimatum, a six-song effort, which catches John Roderick switching gears, moving his band’s guitar-based indie rock to a more amorphous, orchestrated sound. It’s pretty clear the bugs aren’t worked out of the system yet. This EP catches the band either on a one-time flight of fancy or as a first step to something different, giving us a look at The Long Winters we probably haven’t seen before.

Although the Winters are in that awkward adolescent stage between guitar pop and wider indie rock, with too-big feet and gangly limbs, Ultimatum showcases a few songs that should be more than fans-only tunes that frequently appear on such transitional EPs. High points include the light and loose “Everything is Talking,” in which Roderick and company find space for chiming Korgs, bursts of brass and occasional stings in its pop format. Although the guitar doesn’t retreat into the depths of song, the Winters find a burst of sophistication to balance their previous indie-pop efforts. The title track grows from a folksy acoustic arrangement into swoops of orchestration and crashing cymbals and back to give a feeling of gentle, restrained power.

There’s just as much to question as there is to love on this EP, however. Most notably, Roderick abandons the captivating characters and unusual settings he painted in earlier lyrics. Where his earlier work snuggled up against the imagery of bands such as The Mountain Goats, Ultimatum drifts through lyrics either intentionally too vague to pack much impact or abandons the quirky situations of the band’s earlier material. A couple tracks, “The Commander Thinks Aloud” and “Delicate Hands,” seem more preoccupied with chasing orchestral aims than developing solid pop tunes. It’s as if in the quest to redefine his band, Roderick’s forgotten the basics that made people pay attention.

So do The Long Winters carry on with the experiment or revert back to the standby instrumental pop? That depends, mostly on Roderick’s ability to merge the pop structures and melodies of his previous efforts with orchestrated arrangements. If Ultimatum’s as good as he gets at it, we’ll welcome a return to the old days.

- Matt Schild

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:50 am
by Liesbeth
there's a long review on

Oh, and the new Ultimatum review section in the Library will be online some time today.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:58 am
by Liesbeth
but first I will look for more, more, more, like this glowing review in San Diego CityBEAT:
Sometimes the first play of an album sounds so approachable, so air-conditionally cool that it’s almost as if you know the words. Few bands corner the unfussy musical feeling of a cloudy Sunday afternoon as well as The Long Winters do on Ultimatum—largely because the Shins sang the feeling so well that no one else succeeded at it. This type of happy-sad sing-a-long is finally finding a folky, funky home with the quirky hits of Death Cab and Postal Service hitting AAA radio.

The most shimmering track is the first. “The Commander Thinks Aloud” drags a piano along by the keys and loafs to John Roderick’s calming yelp. You’ve heard Roderick sound like Michael Stipe before, but he topped R.E.M. this time around. Put in your hearing aid and you may catch some cheeky wordplay nestled between emotional gems. For a flickering glance at The Long Winters’ formidable talent—albeit only six songs worth—this is a good place to start.

btw, by no means feel discouraged to post reviews you might come across, just because I'm going a bit crazy here.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 6:39 am
by Liesbeth
fairly long review on

Great review from Three Imaginary Girls

Posted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 7:21 am
by lagomorph
Three Imaginary Girls has given "Ultimatum" 9 out of a possible 11:

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2005 1:02 pm
by Liesbeth
there are more and more reviews popping up, which is pretty cool, seeing how this is 'just' an ep

A.V. club Music in brief
Houston Chronicle
Loose Record
Decoy Music
sctas[dot]com 2.0

plus it's good to know that (The Ultimate Punk Music Store, With over 60,000 Punk, Emo, Hardcore & Ska items!) sells Ultimatum

of course, it's way cooler to shop with uncle Merlin on, which also give you the chance to stock up on some Hipster PDA supplies while you are at it.
The things you come across when you google.