As a fan of Bedhead and the first two CDs from The New Year, I found their newest, self-titled one equal to the quality the Brothers Kadane and crew have shown over the past decade and the one before that. It's steady, reminding me of Pavement's more reflective moments, and with a bit of the post-rock ambiance combined with a Velvet Underground type of "afterhours" vibe.
So, while "Folios" opens this record-- as brief as their others, just over half an hour-- rousingly, it's more typical for these songs to remain understated. The vocals can be a bit plain in tone and they may grate a few listeners unaccustomed to this style, but fans of Stephen Malkmus, Lou Reed, or the Feelies should have no problem getting used to the quavering approach. "The Door Opens," in fact, points towards the New Jersey New Wave sound with a jerkier, more jittery delivery than one has come to expect from the Austin, Texas-based ensemble.
There's one song, "The Company I Can Get," that for me hits a slightly off-key note. Not in music, but the lyrical inclusion of the only possible acquaintance for the singer being a "redneck" does hint of condescension as well as irony. I guess it's a Texas alt-rock thing. It's not a bad song, but the attempt at mockery of others or more likely self-mockery comes off too flat.
To sum up, it's an album in line with its predecessors. The increasing amount of piano-based ballads go by as quickly as the snappier tunes, and while I favor the latter's propulsion more than the former's reticence, there's a connected air of maturity on most tracks that leaves you aware of time passing and reflective moments. For a band that takes about as long between albums these days as the space between an Olympics or a new presidential term, that's fitting.