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Review: The Long Winters – Ultimatum

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The Long Winters, led by mastermind John Roderick, have ventured from their usual musical stylings, moving into what is, for them, at the very least, new territory. Ultimatum, their first release since their 2003 album, When I Pretend to Fall. Standing at six tracks, this EP is simultaneously soothing and engaging.

The opening track, “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” a shadowing of this new sound, is poppy and piano-driven, with Roderick’s vocals quickly taking a leading role in the piece — which seems to be the most constant element across the EP. The title track, “Ultimatum,” places Roderick’s vocals afront a fine accompaniment — one that emphasizes his dynamic, full-bodied voice: a folksy, down-home guitar and a five piece string combo, bringing forward Roderick’s unique nuances. He uses a similar approach with live, acoustic renditions of When I Pretend to Fall‘s “Bride and Bridle” and “Ultimatum,” performing the two pieces in what is an unarguably more raw construct.

What really seals Ultimatum is its lyrical content; at times, it is enigmatic and convoluted, yet at others, it simple and straightforward. Roderick sticks to a fairly straightforward style for the bulk of the EP: “A trail of shooting stars / the horses call the storm / because the air contains the charge.” At times, however, he branches into slightly more bizarre lines found in “Delicate Hands”: “The weight of this hairstyle’s / making me lazy / I think I’m going to leave it / up all night / I want to feed you / butter-rum candy / But someone beat you / to me.” In the conscientious “Everything is Talking,” Roderick initially describes modern life (“My new friends have messages / They reach me wherever I am”) aside what I must assume is a description of the ultimately eerie experience of having fans whom you’ve never met (“Namess friends / All know my name”), before delving into some strange sort of moral dillema surrounding, perhaps, the growing artificiality of our food supply — and maybe some sort of future integration of robots into our daily lives (“I won’t eat a machine / But what if it asks me? / What if it says my name?”).

At any rate, Ultimatum is, hopefully, a sign of things to come for The Long Winters and their upcoming full-length, planned for early 2006.

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