Winter's Kill

New Radiant Storm King

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Winter's Kill Review

by Jason Birchmeier

New Radiant Storm King had hit its stride in 1996 with Hurricane Necklace, its fourth and most mature album to date. However, the indie rock band went downhill from there, struggling to find a drummer and struggling with the realities of life -- marriage, money, career opportunities, geographic locale, and so on. It was perhaps no surprise then that Singular No Article (1999), the band's fifth album, failed to reconnect with New Radiant Storm King's fan base and went relatively unheard. And that's too bad, since Singular, No Article was a respectable album; granted, it was no Hurricane Necklace, but it still met an undeserving fate. It's perhaps fitting, then, that Winter's Kill follows suit in terms of style. On this album, released in 2002, the band seems to have put extra effort into making sure that Winter's Kill wouldn't meet the same unfortunate fate as Singular, No Article. The songwriting is similar -- incredibly varied and informed by indie rock precedent -- but the production is far more considered: these guys obviously devoted substantial effort in making sure these songs sound as wonderful as possible. And, thankfully, they do indeed sound wonderful; this is a beautiful sounding indie rock album, lo-fi yet a crystal-clear sort of lo-fi where none of the instruments -- guitar, bass, Rhodes piano, Hammond organ, synth -- sound the same from song to song. New Radiant Storm King have done everything possible to make Winter's Kill the best album it can possibly be, and the results are undoubtedly glorious. The only thing really lacking here -- besides the band's one-time fan base and critical following -- is the naïvete that masterminds Matt Hunter and Peyton Pinkerton had in the early to mid-'90s. Back then you could sense the duo's passion and enthusiasm; they were coming of age as indie rockers. Here you can sense their experience and patience; they know how to make a perfect indie rock album at this point in their career. It's this aim for perfection that ironically prevents this album from being the true masterpiece it perhaps should. After all, can you -- or, perhaps, should you -- perfect indie rock? Part of its beauty is its sense of accident; you can't create spontaneity and you can't revisit naive discovery, two of the qualities that still make Hurricane Necklace New Radiant Storm King's crowning achievement, even if Winter's Kill is indeed a near-perfect indie rock album. Either way, though, it's great to see this band pull itself back together after its late-'90s turmoil.

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