On its second full-length album, this creative quintet shows off its obvious jazz influences, especially in the first three tracks, "This Fall," "Augury" and "Seattle Bound," which feature darting, unconventional melodies in a folk-pop setting.
But the title track, which comes fourth, goes beyond pleasant. It combines spritely piano, Dan Pirello's chilled-out guitar leads and singer Kaila McIntyre Bader's swooping, impassioned vocals about a winter-holiday reunion that becomes difficult. Listening again to the earlier tunes in the context of this amazing number, they all seem deeper. It's a masterly bit of CD-program-ming magic.
After the band's 2008 debut, members drifted off to regular employment and post-college life. This version of the group is a slightly reconstituted one, focused on touring and, judging from this new album, crafting shimmering chamber-pop that is fresh and eye-opening. Songs with multiple sections and offbeat instrumentation feature subtle bass grooves, harmonium, glockenspiel, synthesizer and peppery percussion.
The lullaby-like "Two Seasons"—with its trebly, almost-ukulele-style guitar, sweet vocals and gentle bass throb—is delicate and charming. "Open Window" gets funky with guitar sass. "Storm King" begins poetic and hypnotic, only to build momentum and intensity atop Bader's piano and rich, full-throated, multi-part harmonies.
For those with adventurous ears, The New Year is an embarrassment of riches.