If you’re looking for a record that’s going to give you an immediate connection, then you should stop all you’re doing and find a way to listen to this new album from Withered Hand, the project of Dan Willson. New Gods is brimming with reflection in the lyrics, the kind that one finds when coming to terms with growing up and getting old. You’ll find yourself repeating so many of these tunes that you’re likely to burn through your first copy in a matter of hours.
“Horseshoe” begins your affair with an acoustic strum and Willson’s voice, which occasionally has a Wayne Coyne affectation to it. The song becomes fleshed out through drums and a backing electric guitar. Throughout my listens I can’t tell what I’m more in love with, the intimacy of Willson’s voice or the eruptive chorus that gets better with each; they’re both incredible dammit. It’s a beautiful tune that opens the way for the more introspective lyrics of “Black Tambourine.” I’d hate to say I know what Dan’s thinking, but my interpretation revolves around the idea of evolving from your youthful outlook only to find that you don’t necessarily have to redefine your life and your goals. You’ll find a similar sentiment in the lyrics of “Fall Apart” later in the record. But, while the lyrics often turn to internalizing the process of adulthood, New Gods is often just about the abilities of a great songwriter.
As I alluded to earlier, there are some songs that have immediate connection with the listener, and “King of Hollywood” is one such song. Willson incorporates varying styles from a rocking singer-songwriter to a more country influences songwriter within this tune, but it still holds tightly to a core wrapped around pop sensibility. There’s a positivity exhibited in the mood of the track, which sets you up for the more solemn number that follows, “California.” The majority of this track is built on the simplicity of a strummed guitar and the vocals, which are joined on occasion by a female backing part. Still, there’s a raised element during the chorus, and while it might remain louder in your speakers, it brings with it a sentiment of solitude that fits in nicely.
If I did have to pick a track that stood out to me above the rest, it would surely be the album’s title track, “New Gods.” This song combines the lyrical content discussed earlier with the excellent songwriting I’ve come to realize Dan Willson has to offer. This song also utilizes all these little hidden brush strokes that add to the tune. There’s a strummed guitar, light drum touches, deep bass buzz, piano and even backing vocals; he throws in everything, yet still holds the center of the song around himself. But, each of us are affected differently, so who knows what you’ll find as your favorite when you give this a listen.
Withered Hand might just be the ideas of one man, but it seems like it encompasses the life of men in general. The songs are personal, and even though they take on serious tones, there’s still an element of playfulness, which I’ve found endearing. You’ll be wise to rush out and find your hands on New Gods.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/01-Horseshoe.mp3]
New Gods is available through Slumberland Records.