The Listener: Days of the New

Days of the New, by Days of the New. Outpost Records. 1997.

It has been a long, long time since I wrote a Listener post, so I thought I would revive the series by “reviewing” an album I have wanted to write about for a long time: Days of the New, the self-titled debut album by Days of the New. It is a fitting time to review it, too, because its deep, pensive, sorrowful post-grunge melodies evoke images of November sunsets.

Days of the New has a special place in my heart and is one of my favorite albums. (Hence the scare quotes above.) It was released during a formative time in my life and the album’s most recognizable songs — “Shelf in the Room,” “Touch, Peel and Stand,” and “The Down Town” — were in heavy rotation on the local rock stations when I started listening to them. To this day, it is not uncommon to hear those songs on KRNA or Rock 108, no doubt a testament to their staying power. However, I did not own the album until around 2004, when a friend burned me a copy.

Days of the New is the first of three self-titled albums by the band. According to Wikipedia, this first album is known among fans as the “Orange” (or “Yellow”) album because of the dominant color in the cover art. That differentiates it from the “Green” and “Red” albums released in 1999 and 2001, respectively. In a way, I suppose it symbolic that the band released three self-titled albums: essentially, a different Days of the New is featured on each. The original lineup — Travis Meeks, Matt Taul, Jesse Vest, and Todd Whitener — split up around 1998. Meeks continued to carry the Days of the New banner with new members while Taul, Vest, and Whitener formed Tantric. Though I have never listened to “Red” or “Green” (the only song I know from “Red” is “Enemy”), I think it is incredibly sad the original members did not stay together because they made some damn good music. Days of the New is proof.

Though simple and spare, the album is powerful. Meeks’ voice and the accompanying acoustic melodies resonate — audibly and emotionally. While some songs are slower and much more sorrowful and bluesy, others are energetic at times and reminiscent of country and bluegrass. All are wrapped nicely in an acoustic, post-grunge package featuring a tatty bow. In his review of Days of the New four years ago, Bobblehead said I described it as “folk grunge.” As Bobblehead wrote, “that description pretty much nails it on the head.”

“Shelf in the Room,” “Touch, Peel and Stand,” and “The Down Town” are the songs many will recognize, but they are not the only gems on Days of the New. In fact, they seem more like moissanite compared to diamonds like “What’s Left for Me,” “Where I Stand,” and “How Do You Know?” My favorite songs on the album are “Solitude” and “Now.”

“Patience” is a word Bobblehead mentions a couple times in his review. Yes, Days of the New can take patience to listen to. At times slow and cumbersome, it is one of those albums that one can only listen to at certain times. Even I can’t listen to it whenever. Not only does it need to fit my mood, it also needs to fit the season. Days of the New is not something I would listen to while driving across the country during a summer vacation. Maybe at twilight, when the western horizon is ablaze with the last light of the day, but probably not before. For the most part, Days of the New is what I would consider autumn music. The tone befits the season, especially November, when the branches are bare, the days end early, and the chill of the upcoming winter is evident in the air. It brings to mind sweaters and fields filled with stubble. That is probably why I love it so much: it is music for my favorite season.

Here’s the crazy thing about Days of the New: Meeks, Taul, Vest, and Whitener were all teenagers when the album was recorded. It is not that teenagers are incapable of greatness, but I had always assumed the band members were in their mid-twenties. The album displays an emotional depth, maturity, and thoughtfulness that is at least unexpected for most teenagers. It blew my mind when I learned that the band members were, in fact, only a few years older than me when their songs started playing on the radio.

If you are in the mood, and the season is right (which it is right now), I definitely recommend listening to Days of the New.

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