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  Newness Ends  
  The New Year  
  Touch & Go  
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Everyone approaches new music in a different way. Some people let the sound wash over them and judge things on the overall effect. Others focus on the vocals and the lyrics, and make an appropriate judgment. Me? When I play a song (or a band) for the first time, I invariably hear the drums. Kick drums, snare drums, ride cymbals, high hats -- it always seems when I'm making that binary "is it good or is it skeet" decision, the first thing that gets evaluated in my brain is "how do I like the drumming?"

Drumming was never central to Bedhead, which was the former band of The New Year's Kadane brothers. Rather, it served as a background placemarker for the central vocal melody and rhythmic guitars. So I was surprised when I popped in Newness Ends and immediately heard the snare take the lead and set the pace and tone for the first song, Half a Day. The next song maintains balance - each instrument holds its own place in the mix, making each sound like an integral part of the music. And the slightly off-kilter, martial drumbeat carries everything with it, providing a sense of urgency that Bedhead usually lacked. And even though the drums for the third song, Gasoline, seem like they're ripped out of any number of generic Brit-Pop songs, they aren't relegated to a background position, even as the guitars start to distort into a wash of fuzz, reminiscent of The Wedding Present.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the rest of the album doesn't completely measure up to the promise of the first tracks. That's not to say that the rest of the album is bad, or even mediocre. It's just something I've heard before. For instance, tracks 4-7, with the minimalist guitars and emphasis of the vocal line, could easily have been part of Bedhead's 1998 release Transaction de Novo. Or perhaps those same songs could be recorded by Songs: Ohia, or perhaps Mark Kozelek, or maybe even some no-name mopecore band out of the MidWest. And although the pace picks back up again on the last three songs, they seem a little recycled, as if the brothers Kadane had listened to the afore-mentioned Wedding Present or some of Bedhead's noisier moments, and the drummer got tired of doing anything except that off kilter, martial beat. This may seem like nit-picking, but there seems little reason to repeat things over and over, especially within the confines of a 10 song album.

I guess my final verdict goes something like this: if you liked Bedhead, there's a good chance you'll like at least part of Newness Ends. However, I was frustrated by the album. There is so much going on in the first few songs - a lack of too much musically dawdling and a sense of balance within the band that doesn't allow any one part to dominate - that the return to normality and mere accomplishment left me cold.

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