I typically like to say that timing is everything on these reviews. Summer album just in time for warm weather? Check and check. This is the one time I throw that out the window, or call myself out for taking too long to get a review out there. The long and short of it is: I think you should listen to the Written Years, but they put out – in their own words – “winter music.” I could either hold off on sharing that information until the fall, or concede that sometimes we need somber, introspective music even after spring has sprung.
In the eight tracks of their self-titled debut, he trio from Vancouver, BC captures the tired grayness of the shortest days of the year. Those are the days that we not only wish for summer, but remember the best of the days that have gone by. This is evident in the lyrics of loss, nostalgia, and other topics to debate while staring at cracks in the wall and drinking tea.
While that could sound like a carnival ride of all things Sad Panda, that is not the case with this album. Yes, Wade Ouellete’s reticent vocals convey the sullen subject matter of each track, but they show strength, not mousiness; they show hope, not giving up. As for the sound that the trio puts out, it is anything but stripped-down. Oullete and Kodie Krogh weave thoughtful guitar riffs while Kane Enders shifts his drumming between broad swells and crisp marches. Each track is rich with melody and builds on the bones of the last, culminating with the vast “Are You Okay?” before settling on the the homespun acoustic “The Station” that ends just a little too abruptly for my liking.
How do three young men make this happen? I imagine it helps when you enlist the help of bassist-by-committee as well as some well-placed backup vocals. Also, rarely has any ill come from taking one’s time on any project – as this album was six years in the making. There is a benefit to writing something, sitting on it for a while and then approaching it with fresh ears. Of course, with any piece of work that I become a fan of, I am already thinking of what comes next and the pitfall of many musicians/authors/artists: you have all the time in the world to create your first piece of art, and then you have one year to create your next one. I hope the Written Years are up to the challenge and that they are able to follow up on the grand sound of their debut.
Until then, I’ll have this album to put into my ears for as many winters as I need. If you are not ready to let go of winter and give into spring yet, then go grab a copy for yourself.
Clay is a regular contributor and co-founder at Nanobot. He lives in Denver, CO since it is one of the sunniest places in North America