River City Extension – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger
Record Label: XOXO Records / Anchor & Hope Music
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
River City Extension have never been a little band. Other than, you know, the fact that not many people are aware of their supersized approach to indie-folk/bluegrass. With a membership that outsizes some Midwestern towns, the New Jersey group are one of those classic, every-person-has-their-place sort of collectives. Leader Joe Michelini already cemented himself as a storyteller on 2010’s The Unmistakable Man, but here things feel fuller. They feel like the words of someone who isn’t just telling stories, but living through them.
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger, while being robust (14 songs clock in at almost an hour), is neither heavy nor dragging. It’s always an ambitious thing when a band claiming roots to the punk and hardcore scenes of the Northeast do something completely different and just expect people to take hold. But the pacing works so well that you’re enthralled from second one of opener “Glastonbury” to the side-B star “Ballad of Oregon” (a drum-driven, good-feeling singalong) to the sparse and spiritual closer “Lord, I Have Changed.” It’s the type of album where you get lost, letting things wash over you, yet somehow take in every word and strummed acoustic guitar with a fervor not out of place at a Southern Baptist church.
The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, etc. These bands have found their foothold (one, in my opinion, in much more interesting ways than the other) by believing that all we want is to escape. Songs like the horn and piano-led toe-tapper “Point of Surrender” and annoyingly-named single “If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn” remove us from our surroundings. They throw us around, tornado-style, and drop us in an airy room with our closest, most meaningful friends. They are the songs that make you wish you were someone else – not out of sadness, but out of beautiful nostalgia. You hear lines like, “Find your path is not as narrow as it seems / You have grown / You are free,” from the dusk-swept, violin-studded “The Fall and The Need to be Free,” and it’s easy to understand why sometimes in 2012 we just need something that feels like it’s from 1912.
Really, the beauty of an album like Don’t Let The Sun… is that in between the rickety monuments to group songwriting, there is a simple and subtle message of camaraderie. The saloon stylings of “Down, Down, Down”, the twang and harmonies of “Slander,” or the yearning of lines like, “Strange to think my friends will die” on acoustic-only “Golden Tongue (Thanatopsis)” – I could find a moment on almost every track that reeks of real life. Sigh, but perhaps there’s nothing better to say than this is a truly organic record. At least, as organic as it probably could be. You don’t turn a record like this off, look out onto your depressing cityscape and think, “These guys are really full of it.” River City Extension shows us we’re only a few steps away from creating a band of our own. We have the friends, the memories, the determination. Just give us the instruments.
Recommended If You Like: The Head and The Heart, Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, David Schultz & The Skyline (whoa!)
I saw them in double digits supporting their debut, and just the other day for the first time supporting this record.
Everything about the first record, from studio to tour, is more fun. Part of this band's appeal was their fun factor.
The songwriting seems to be just as solid this time around (I've played the debut countless times, but have only touched the new one a few times.. so I need to let it sink in), but it's almost night and day between where they were and where they are.