The Long Winters – When I Pretend to Fall

The Long Winters
When I Pretend to Fall

After a number of aborted attempts at bands, songwriter, Alaska native, and former Harvey Danger member John Roderick finally got it right last year when his latest group, the Long Winters, released their debut full-length, The Worst You Can Do is Harm. Only days after returning home from touring the country twice in support of that effort, Roderick and friends (Eric Corson, Michael Schilling, Eric Corson) headed back into the studio to try and keep the momentum going with their second effort, When I Pretend to Fall. The new album was recorded with the help of Chris Walla and Ken Stringfellow, both of whom have names you should recognize. The result is truly wonderful, and to keep the list of name drops going, When I Pretend to Fall features guest spots by artists such as REM’s Peter Buck, Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey, American Analog Set’s Sean Ripple, and a number of others.
I said this album was wonderful, and I meant it. This batch of songs shows two things: a much greater cohesiveness from track to track than the band’s previous effort, and a newfound confidence in John Roderick that allows him to spread his wings a bit and really get comfortable. Roderick’s storytelling lyrics are cried out in a voice that really makes you want to listen. He weaves tales that are both obscure and highly personal, but you are always able to relate and connect, and you are always waiting for more. The musicianship that holds him up is astounding, from horn sections, to mandolin, to vibraphone. In fact, there are 26 musicians listed on the inside credits, and the range of instrumentation is in itself enough to keep you on your toes.
The album opens with the pairing of “Blue Diamonds” and “Sacred Straight,” two peppy and bold melodic pop songs that bounce along with a dash of keyboards and horns, and the same vibe comes towards the end of the album with “Prom Night at Hater High.” Later on, songs like “Shapes” and “Cinnamon” have a hint of twang and an overall vibe that makes you want to jump in your pickup truck and hit the highway, while those like “Bride and Bridle,” “The Sound of Coming Down,” and “It’ll be a Breeze” have the distinct sound of vintage Americana. “Stupid” and “New Girl” are classic mid-tempo pop songs, and no matter what style song Roderick is writing, he is always tugging at your heartstrings, most evident on tearjerkers like “Blanket Hog” and “Nora.”
I will admit, when I heard The Worst You Can Do is Harm, the band’s debut full-length, I was pleased but not largely impressed. Oh, how things have changed this time around.