For the past five years, John Roderick has made a name for himself in indie-pop circles as the perfectionist epicenter of the group The Long Winters. And, except for bassist Eric Corson, he's managed to drive out all his band members.
With the third record, Putting the Days to Bed, it's easy to see why: It sounds really controlled and perfectly poppy. Throughout the 11 tracks, the sound doesn't stray far from guitar pop with fancy changes, though "Fire Island, AK" has a faux-Morrissey vocal melody to it; "Teaspoon" brings in some Staxy horn hits, and '70s soft rock swims up in varying guises, like the break on "(It's a) Departure."
For being the self-proclaimed "Alaska's Donald Fagen," the only song that smacks of Steely Dan at all is the charming "Hindsight," which would still be a long shot at making the cutting-room floor of Katy Lied. But the lyrics ... or maybe just the way Roderick sings them ... try a little hard to be from a textbook-smart, lovable oddball, veering from nearly embarrassing earnestness to self-conscious snark. You end up with lines like "But I'm smoking cigarettes when no one else does / and if I hold you now will I be / holding a snowball when the season changes / and I'm craving the sun?"
But more power to The Long Winters ... this'll make my car stereo. And as Roderick said in a recent interview, "If you want a record that makes you feel like you've been doing bad coke all weekend with skeezy people you barely know, there are plenty of those records available."