Like Bedhead before them, The New Year is one of those groups who release remarkably consistent music that seems rather straightforward on the surface but has a little bit more lurking under the surface. Playing somewhat workman-like guitar rock, they don't sound that much different than a lot of chugging groups with understated vocals, but on the second (or third, or fourth) listen their lyrical twists, odd time signatures and other slight nuances work their way into your head more than most other bands doing this sort of thing.
I say mostly guitar driven, because on this newest (and second) self-titled release from the group, they've changed things up just a bit, incorporating a fair amount of piano into their work. It's a small change, but when you're talking about a group who stays the course for so long, it's definitely worth a mention. In addition, there are more than a couple songs on the release that actually seem to have a bit of light peeking out from around the edges. It's not to say they're upbeat by any means, but the group has certainly seemed to lighten up just a bit (while still plumbing many of the same depths lyrically).
So yeah, it's not huge steps, but they're good to hear, and opener "Folios" gives a nice example, as a repeated acoustic guitar measure slowly gets layered in with electric guitar, bells, drums, and organ (along with the requisite vocals). The subdued crescendo pays off with a triumphant little tilt towards the end that's measured, but packs a nice little punch. "The Company I Can Get" follows, and is easily one of the better things the group has done, with a rolling piano melody and sturdy rhythm section that plays perfectly off some shimmering guitars and sarcastic, but funny vocals. It's not quite playful, but pretty darn close, and that's a good thing.
Elsewhere, the chugging "The Door Opens," rumbles along with a pounding beat and heavy bass while shards of guitar and rather emotive vocals fill in the gaps. On the stripped-down and piano-led "MMV," it's even more clear why the group decided to use the instrument more on this release. Tonally, it's a perfect fit with the sort of downcast vocals of Matt Kadane. As with their past albums, there are a couple songs that aren't quite as strong (they arrive here towards the end), but even the weak spots aren't too glaring. They even go out on a solid foot with the feedback-drenched "The Idea of You," a super-solid song that layers in their multi-guitar attack while showing off some nice dynamic shifts. So yeah, like I said above, The New Year is a workman-like group, and this is yet another solid album from them.