The New Year: The New Year

Matt Gonzales

On their first album in four years, the New Year quietly reminds the indie rock community why no one makes music for the Painfully Alone better than them.

The New Year

The New Year

Label: Touch & Go
US Release Date: 2008-09-09
UK Release Date: 2008-09-08

It's not surprising to learn that Matt Kadane, lead vocalist of long-running slowcore kings the New Year, is a history professor. Lyrically, Kadane has always been obsessed with the passage of time, concerning himself in particular with aging and its effects on the psyche. He has always used songwriting as an opportunity for self-examination, and his unabashed introspection manifests itself in a guardedly fragile vocal delivery that even now, with Kadane in his mid-30s, evinces an adolescent vulnerability.

Kadane's voice isn’t the only thing that hasn't changed much over the years. Since he and his brother, Bubba Kadane, started making music in 1992 as Bedhead, the duo has repeatedly revisited the same glacially slow guitar-driven sound. Bedhead broke up in 1998, but reformed as essentially the same band with a different name in 1999. The New Year has released two albums with tellingly ominous titles – Newness Ends (2001) and The End Is Near (2004) – since then. The latter album begins with a line that pretty much sums up the Kadane ethos: "The end's not near, it's here / Alleluia, spread the cheer."

At first blush, this self-titled third album sounds like more of the same: Bubba and Matt Kadane's swirling, interlocking guitars underscored by Chris Brokaw's (formerly of Codeine) restrained, thumping drums and Steve Albini's gloriously crystal clear production. But careful listeners will quickly catch on to a newfound glint of warmth, if not hope, in Kadane's lyrics. He's still obsessed with regret, aging and loneliness, but a sense of peaceful resignation pervades much of the album. The new mood shines through in the opening lines of "MMV", emerging in time with a bittersweet autumnal piano line: "There are things some people classify as pleasures / That just before I die, I'll have no regrets at having missed / Camping and orgies and places on the body I've never kissed." As the final word concludes, Brokaw comes in with some feather-light drum brushing that beautifully underscores Kadane's next sentiments: "But however you define / Whatever you have in mind / We both have a need for things we don’t need / Like belief and relief and pleasure and grief."

Kadane has a penchant for delivering lines – especially song-opening ones – that puncture the heart like a needle full of morphine. On "Body and Soul" he softly laments, "I don't want a body / Without a soul / Here's just one more thing / I can't control." It’s a hell of an existential zinger, and its sadness is amplified by a solo piano – an instrument, by the way, that's used more here than on any prior The New Year or Bedhead albums – to soul-stirring effect.

Kadane's despairing tenor and inward-looking lyrics have long been the emotional center of both Bedhead's and the New Year's songs. But now more than ever, the music itself does far more than just hold its own. Guitarist Peter Schmidt and bassist Mike Donfrio, both also indie rock veterans, round out the band, and together the members have produced one of the most sonically rewarding albums I've heard this year. Whether on "Wages of Sleep", where the two Kadanes weave their guitars together like sublime sonic latticework, or on the adrenaline-rush of "The Door Opens", where a simple rhythmic cymbal-tap provides the foundation for a tense rocker built around the portentous line, "The door opens / And all hell blows in," the band demonstrates an intuitive solidarity that had eluded it on its prior albums.

Like all of the band's work, The New Year will likely receive a modest, respectful reception from the critical community before being noiselessly forgotten. But this subtle, delightful and lovingly crafted album will doubtlessly be revered by those lucky few who have been following the Kadane brothers throughout their quiet but increasingly remarkable musical careers.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.