Gardener, New Dawning Time (Sub Pop)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

New Dawning Time
Sub Pop
By: Eric G.

I just saw what might have been Seaweed’s last show ever at Merge Record’s 10th anniversary bash, but at the very worst I can get a fix of Aaron Stauffer’s emotionally melodic vocals on his new band Gardener’s debut, New Dawning Time. The music is the flip side of the coin to Seaweed’s dirty, catchy punk with lots of acoustic guitars, organs, female vocals, sitars, and even trumpets. Van Connor from the Screaming Trees and various other northwestern brethren join Stauffer on this laid back, lyrically insightful journey into what the band itself describes as “shack rock.”

Stauffer has a lot more room to flex his muscles as a musician than he did in Seaweed, composing almost all of the tracks himself. His voice was always the main attraction in Seaweed, but the band’s energetic punk was definitely a limiting factor as to what he could achieve vocally. With Gardener Stauffer explores some of the same lyrical terrain as he did so eloquently in Seaweed: insecurity, loss, regret, and hope. His distinctive inflections work just as well with a lighter back drop, but the intensity and energy of his former band will be sorely missed.

It’s obvious from the title track that this is a personal record: “you travel but you never fall far from the trail/you’re covered in the cold and slow of the new dawning hour.” Gardener seems content in the minor keys, but some of Stauffer’s intrinsic melodicism bursts through in the shape of catchy, major chord choruses (“Backseat”, “Outside Looking In”). The melancholia definitely outweighs the energy, however, with sparse arrangements, shuffling percussion, and meandering melodies. New Dawning Time is honest, sentimental music that’s as confident in its experimentalism as it is sincere in its intentions.

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