The New Year are never ones to rush. Starting in 1991, brothers Bubba and Matt Kadane began Bedhead, one of the foundational groups of a type of indie rock so metered and restrained it was dubbed "slowcore." When Bedhead disbanded in 1999, they began the New Year, continuing to work in the same chiming, often melancholic sound, one based around intricately picked guitar patterns and muted, aching vocals low enough in the mix to feel almost like the voice of a spirit haunting the music. Fourth album Snow comes nine years after its self-titled 2008 predecessor, assembled carefully at various studios between other projects and the growing demands of everyday life faced by anyone still passionately making indie rock more than 25 years in. Backed ably by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Brokaw and bassist Mike Donofrio, the Kadanes draw on some of the trademarks of the sound they've been evolving since the beginning. The winding guitar leads and softly despairing vocal melodies of "Homebody" sound in step with the brightest output of latter-day Bedhead. Likewise, the drawn-out, six-and-a-half-minute penultimate track, "The Beast," reaches the same suspended slow-motion feeling of searching that the band achieved at the summit of all its records. As with each outing before it, however, Snow finds the Kadane camp growing in subtle, incremental ways. Where 2008's self-titled album relied more on piano than any album before it, the songs here find the group expanding its focus on arrangement like never before. "The Last Fall" builds on an almost baroque electric piano figure, only to interrupt a low-key chamber pop mood with unexpectedly dissonant guitar interjections. Moods subtly shift from song to song, moving from lilting bell-like keys and soft falsetto vocals on the title track to quasi-disco octave basslines on "The Party's Over" or bleary-eyed Americana tones on "Dead and Alive," all staying firmly rooted in the Kadane brothers' well-established songwriting language. The constancy and tiny revelations on Snow are emblematic of a much larger process the New Year have been honing since the Bedhead days. Taken without context, Snow is a gorgeous collection of slow-burning, neatly groomed songs and perspectives, always introspective but never without joy. When viewed as another chapter in the ongoing lineage of the Kadane brothers, it takes on a deeper gravity. It becomes another privileged look into a world of sound so personal and deeply considered that it doesn't matter if there are decades between albums; the things the songs have to say will always arrive at exactly the right moment.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas