Three albums into its career, The Long Winters has shed members the way snakes shed skin. But the turnover never creeps into the sound of Putting The Days To Bed, an accomplished collection of layered pop songs about, at least in part, the way things change whether we want them to or not. "Tower likes to fall, cream likes to spoil / everything living tries to get back to the soil," singer-songwriter John Roderick sings on the quiet, mid-album track "Clouds," and it sounds like he knows what he's talking about.
That sense of change envelops the album, in song titles like "(It's A) Departure," pointed lines about old lovers' new haircuts, and the album's sound. The driving beat and a sharp guitar of "Rich Wife" immediately follows "Clouds," kicking the album into a home-stretch high gear that it doesn't abandon until the tender album-closer "Seven."
It ends well, and begins even better. Roderick has a disarming command of how swelling choruses and careful harmonies can push a song from good to great. The album-opener "Pushover"—which packs seemingly every track he knows into its 2:37 running time—echoes the Jayhawks in their prime, while "Hindsight" finds the common ground between '60s Bakersfield and '60s Sunset Strip, recalling the country-rock sound that Wilco abandoned with Being There.
If history repeats itself, The Long Winters' next album will have all-new players, if not an all-new sound. But for the moment, changing has meant growing into a band that's tougher to ignore than ever.