Smile Politely

Album Review: New Ruins This Life is Not Ours to Keep

By Jordan Schwartz

I still remember the first time I saw New Ruins. It was at the Iron Post back in 2007 when they were new to town and only had one album, the still unbeatable The Sound They Make. It’s my favorite New Ruins record, though I usually like whatever album I heard first the best anyway. (And also, how come they never play anything off that album live anymore? I’m dying to hear “Attic” again. Please.) Fast forward to 2011 and the band is still going strong, releasing their third album, This Life Is Not Ours To Keep, on Matt Talbot’s relatively new Earth Analog label.

The album should sound familiar to anyone who’s seen them play live in the past year or so. I’m fairly confident I heard all of these songs live before the album was released in September. Overall, TLINOTK stays true to their often relaxed (and whiskey drenched) shoegazey Americana sound. Not to say that’s a bad thing. It’s surely not boring, and they have gotten very good at doing their thing.

Some of my favorite and least favorite moments of the album come in the song “Holden”. The driving bass line in the verse feels awkward and out of place, but Elzie Sexton’s vocals in the chorus save the song with his affecting delivery. When he sings “All I inherit is your filthy fucking mouth,” you really feel it. Sexton’s lyrics are great throughout the album, my personal favorite coming in “Dodging Anhydrous Clouds”: “I was so full of shit that my eyes were brown.”

Sexton takes the lead more on this album than on previous releases, and it works out well. His songs tend to be more subtle than fellow guitarist Caleb Means’ songs. And that subtlety helps on repeated listens, as the melodies on several songs sneak up and find their way into your brain.  The album also seems to emphasize harmonies more, and it’s here that Means stands out. His tenor does a great job backing Sexton’s mumbled vocals.

Is “Break my Body / steal my bones” an allusion to the Pixies song with the lyrics “break my body / hold my bones”? It’s probably just me, but I can’t get that connection out of my head when hearing “Intense Friendship.” Said song, though, is a great ending to TLINOTK.  It builds slowly, layering delayed guitars and then ends with just drums and Caleb and Elzie’s voices.

If you haven’t seen New Ruins play live, get your ass to a show. They seem to play every month or so and they consistently put on a solid rock show. Based on previous experience, they’re bound to play something new that will show up on their next album.

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