"Seattle is America's Copenhagen," says John Roderick, ringleader of The Long Winters, one of America's finest purveyors of angular and melancholy pop. Putting the Days to Bed, the latest collection of Roderick's depressed metaphors, is a stunning statement of artistic purpose. Full of emotional epics packed into three-minute structures, the effort is a microcosm of the Northwest, a celebration of rain-inspired contemplation.
"The northern climate produces more introspection," Roderick says.
A native of Alaska, Roderick has been leading a variety of incarnations of The Long Winters for almost five years. Members of Death Cab for Cutie, The Posies and Sunny Day Real Estate have all passed through, leaving indelible marks upon previous full-lengths The Worst You Can Do Is Harm and When I Pretend to Fall.
The current Long Winters lineup is noticeably short on big names, which places the emphasis squarely on Roderick's songs, and they bear the weight brilliantly.
"The music is sort of quirky and idiosyncratic," Roderick says. "It doesn't come storming out of the gate. It sort of waltzes in and makes itself at home."
Songs such as "Pushover" and "Teaspoon" are narratives filled with clever imagery and obscure references to disastrous relationships and the perils of not fitting in. "I know I wasn't made to play on a team," sings Roderick on the latter cut, touching on a variety of repressed emotions, scratching the surface of an ache that might release an ocean of sentiment.
"I dance around direct description because it's more fun to write that way," says Roderick. "It lets people make what they will out of the songs."
One of Roderick's best songs is "The Commander Thinks Aloud," which appeared on last year's Ultimatum EP. Over a morose piano refrain, Roderick seemed to be taking on a significance beyond simple relationships, a rumination upon mortality in the context of the shuttle disasters.
"The Columbia crew must have begun reflecting on their lives when the ship came apart," Roderick says. "I pictured that scene in the simplest and most human terms I could." The song, along with the entire EP, is included on the import version of Putting the Days to Bed.
"I do love the Europeans," Roderick jokes. "But the reason the import has more tracks is that the label over there didn't really try to sell the EP."
Selling either version of Days shouldn't prove much of a problem, as critical response has been universally strong. After serving as a music journalist for CMJ last year, Roderick offers a frank take on rock criticism.
"You've got every single dingdong in the country publishing their reviews on the Internet," says Roderick. "Plenty are just churning out word-count to make 25 bucks."
Such acrimony is part of Roderick's literate charm. He's described himself as a bit of a dictator, but his railings are those of a poet using humor and resentment to dance around the truth, the same as he does in his astute songs, songs that tell entire stories in a single line, or sometimes, with a solitary word.
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