Released almost exactly a year after their eponymous debut, Bonny Doon's Woodsist label debut sticks with the ambling, Pavement-descended indie rock that has defined the quartet's sound, but makes some significant updates. While the Fred Thomas-produced Bonny Doon was more textured and had flashes of vibrant guitar pop, on Longwave, the band commits to a stripped-down approach that settles into the rocking chair on the back porch with a cat on its lap. Born from improvisation during a band retreat to secluded Mystic Lake in their home state of Michigan, it was recorded shortly thereafter with Bill Skibbe (Jacuzzi Boys, the Kills) and Shelley Salant (Tyvek, Swimsuit), with minimal overdubs. Its circular structures and reliance on repetition are apparent from the opening track, "Long Wave." Spare rhythmic components open the song, setting a deliberate pace and keeping time as they're eventually joined by warm, conversational guitar lines and reflective vocals. What presents itself as a guitar break in the middle of the song consists of simple kick drum, snare, electric bass, and two one-note-at-a-time guitar lines played in unison. However, the vocals never return, and it develops into a melodic, slow-and-steady summertime groove that stretches over the last two minutes of the track. Though some of the songs are more structured, they're all unhurried. Even a song like "Try to Be," which plays like countrified '60s pop at one of the album's faster tempos, is still relaxed and daydreamy, and fades out a full minute after the singer stops singing. What keeps Longwave's distinct improvisational character upright in the rocking chair, lost in thought instead of asleep like the cat, is a gentle melodicism and an impressionistic bent that's as pretty as it is simple. Part of that design is subtle organ, piano, slide guitar, and effects that fill in some of the space around lead guitars in broad strokes. An exception to the winsomeness is the dilapidated closing instrumental, "Walkdown," which may be just the thing to make eyelids surrender to the late afternoon sun.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson