Sometimes it feels like everyone at Barsuk Records thinks he or she is a poet laureate, and most of the time that’s fine. They put out plenty of decent albums, especially when it comes to this band, whose frontman John Roderick really is that good. Like, Cab might make you cry, Rilo Kiley might — I don’t know — kind of confuse you; but Long Winters songs are always downright compelling. Whether Roderick is being funny, dramatic, or eager, you always feel what he’s saying. And he rocks out on a Rickenbacker with perfect tone, which Tom Petty proved is pretty much all you needed to do to write a good rock song.
Putting the Days to Bed is a lesser album than the first two Long Winters efforts, if only because of a few lazily written songs. These low points actually resemble Jenny Lewis’ shortcomings —songs like ‘Teaspoon’ and ‘Sky is Open’ that cram in a few too many words per line, or just repeat the song title as a refrain. It’s less taut song writing than Roderick has offered in the past, but the attitude and the sound are still perfect.
What sets Roderick apart from his peers is that he manages to bear the indie-adult-contemporary tag (if there is such a thing) without sounding too cheesy or wimpy while doing it. “Maturation" brought out the worst last year in fellow Seattlebased acts like John Vanderslice and Harvey Danger (the latter’s singer being a founding Long Winters member). Roderick, on the other hand, was over 30 when his first record came out in 2002, and it still sounded fresher than anything younger bands were doing at the time. This, his third record, is less focused, but he hasn’t done anything foolish like giving up his guitar to take piano lessons and program drum machines all day. ‘Fire Island, AK’ and ‘Rich Wife’ are straight rockers, betraying nothing but a love for other mature-minded pop songwriters like Elvis Costello and Robyn Hitchcock. Roderick may have mellowed a hair, but who cares? He’s still got miles on Ben Gibbard.