Although the second release from New Ruins has some very strong moments, it suffers a bit from an identity crisis.
We Make Our Own Bad Luck is the work of multiple songwriters. Ideally, this approach results in a pleasing interplay from complimentary perspectives with the most obvious archetype (and unfair comparison) being the Beatles. More often than not, however, employing multiple songwriters over the course of a single album results in a somewhat disjointed listening experience. Although the second release from New Ruins has some very strong moments, it suffers a bit from an identity crisis.
New Ruins follow the you-wrote-it-you-sing-it philosophy of the aforementioned Liverpudlians. Elzie Sexton sings lead on six tracks and childhood friend Caleb Means sings lead on four. Sexton's range falls somewhere between David Berman and J Mascis while Means has a lighter, brighter tone. The Sexton-led "As Far as We Know" features ringing guitar and a stomping vocal that stands as one of the most affecting tracks here. In general, the songs from Sexton match the brooding mood of the rural rock on the LP more effectively than the songs from Means.
Rarely do the vocal paths of Sexton and Means cross, but when they do, the results are positive. Underneath the punk-ish bash of "Held Up By Sand", the interlocking vocals from Means perfectly compliment the muscular guitar line that forms the backbone of the song. This track provides a compelling argument for increased teamwork in future efforts. The liner notes for Once We Were Trees by sonic cousins Beachwood Sparks provide a salient message to New Ruins: written and performed by Beachwood Sparks. Perhaps the band will present a more unified front next time around, especially since their talent so evident.