Releasing an average of an album a year since their 2008 debut, Tucson's the Monitors are prolific, consistent and dependable. While the quartet's sound hasn't taken any sharp turns over the years, it has evolved with each record, and the songs are always catchy and well-written.
All five songs on the Dead Sick Winter EP are winners. The post-Pixies pop-rockers "The Decider" and "Rural at Night" are the kind of churning and hooky songs the group excels at, this time around given a more darkly atmospheric makeover than on previous outings.
Similarly, "The Skipper" and "Reignited" feature the cyclical melodic themes and jerky rhythms that the Monitors are known for, but at this stage in their discography, the unexpected dynamic changes and instrumental textures have come to be expected. With the individual songs strong enough to withstand the creeping familiarity, the Monitors still might be falling into a holding pattern where they're essentially carrying the torch for music based on abandoning tradition. Do the Monitors want to be the Rolling Stones of '80s college rock?
That's up to them, but the slow, discordant opener "Ten" does offer a way out in its measured pacing and a refrain far more subtle than the band's usual big choruses. Though Dead Sick Winter could not be considered anything other than a success, this song shakes up the formula, and the Monitors would be wise to shake it up some more.