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The Wrens – The Meadowlands (2003)

“just finished my last vocal, so um..hope your sitting down…record’s done. One week mixing then handed all to mastering BY Mother’s Day”

This tweet was sent out last Thursday from The Wrens’ twitter account, and for fans of this remarkably unprolific band, it’s the kind of news that one has to be equally elated and skeptical about.  Even I’m a little skeptical about it, and I hadn’t even become a fan of these guys until last year when a bunch of online publications wrote pieces commemorating The Meadowlands’ 10th anniversary.  The vibe I got from these articles was that the band’s cult of admirers were hoping that The Wrens would release their long-awaited follow-up to this album in 2013 – the so-called “year of the long-awaited comeback”.  But even in regard to those expectations, The Wrens were characteristically lax as usual.  Which begs the question: Why should anyone care about a new album from a bunch of past-their-prime indie rockers who’re more concerned with their personal lives than recording another album?

My answer: because these are the things that made 2003’s The Meadowlands an amazingly underrated achievement, and one of my most listened-to albums during the last year or so.  If you’ve spent any time listening to The Wrens, you can tell that their guitar-driven, melodies-ablazin’ aesthetic is an unmistakable product of golden-age indie rock — a sound that was all but extinct by 2003.  And yet because this album is steeped in the anxieties of getting older, this somewhat outdated sound just makes the album feel that much more honest.  Not everyone can be on the cutting edge, and I think the fact that The Wrens decided to embrace this instead of haphazardly trying to sound like The Strokes or Interpol is what still makes The Meadowlands resonate with those that have become apart of the album’s quietly growing cult.

Also, it’s a remarkable album in that it was created by a bunch of dudes with day-jobs, who basically assumed that their days as professional musicians were behind them.  There’s no better example of this than the album’s concise lead-off track, whose entire lyrics go “It’s been so long since you’ve heard from me.  /  Got a wife and kid that I never see. /  And I’m nowhere near where I dreamed I’d be. /  I can’t believe what life’s done to me.”  They’re some of the most direct lyrics I’ve ever heard about adulthood, and much of The Meadowlands similarly deals with life’s compromises and what we choose to do with them as we get older.  It’s these compromises that are surely what caused The Wrens to take 10 freakin’ years to record a follow-up to The Meadowlands, but I can only hope that their musical implications will be what makes the wait totally worth it.

Favorite Tracks: “The House That Guilt Built”, “This Boy Is Exhausted”, “Faster Gun”