All Music Guide

Idaho
Year After Year
Caroline
* * *

Combining Swans circa Burning World/White Light From the Mouth of Infinity with American Music Club's sense of wounded regret might not be the most immediate combination to suggest itself, but Idaho essentially started off with that combination, and on Year After Year made it work rather well. Suffering a bit by comparison to Red House Painters as well Martin's singing voice has the same general approach and range as Mark Kozelek's, but rather cracked and raspier when he forces his register higher Idaho didn't get as much attention as they could have won. A pity, because especially on musical terms, the Martin/Berry partnership, who recorded most everything on their own, created some lovely, lost songs forlorn and hurt. Berry's abilities on guitar are the key, able to kick up noise when need be but otherwise capturing the same descending, dark qualities the other bands mentioned have so memorably made their own. When Berry fires up the stentorian doom here and there, as on the sudden deathmarch guitars on "Gone," the effect is thrilling, but calmer efforts like the brief "One Sunday" show that he doesn't need to rely on that approach to set the mood. In combination with Martin's singing, the results are wondrous, as songs like the beautifully mournful "Skyscrape" and "The Only Road" make perfectly clear. The Swans connection is made a touch more explicit by the drumming of former member Vince Signorelli on two tracks, first being "Here to Go," which definitely has something of that band's general pace and toward the end its total crushing impact thanks to some fierce guitar overdubs. "Save," meanwhile, has Signorelli taking a calmer approach while Berry's crisp, minimal hits on the verses provide the sudden punch in contrast, with Martin easily, softly singing along.

~Ned Raggett

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