A Night In The Box - Write A Letter
A Night In The Box
Write A Letter (Afternoon Records, 2008*)
There's nothing I love more than watching a band grow up into something fantastic. A Night in the Box captured my attention with The Hustle, The Prayer, The Thief, an exuberant record that mixes earnest, fresh-off-the-turnip-truck folk with aggressive rock – think the White Stripes with a touch of the Soggy Bottom Boys. After releasing the most fun record to come out of Minnesota in, oh, I don't know, forever, ANITB has a lot riding on this record.
And let me say, they far exceeded even my unreasonably high expectations. Write A Letter, which was released a few weeks back, is a thing of beauty.
Right off the bat, opening one-two punch of "Broken-down Radiator Blues" and "The Garden" proves that ANITB is brimming with every bit of spry, agile energy they've always had. Especially on "Rich Man's Table" and "Empty Handed Blues," ANITB delivers the scorching riffs, wild howls and killer beats (relatively) longtime fans have come to expect.
But the retention of their youthful energy doesn't mean they haven't grown up. Write A Letter takes hard-hitting folk rock of The Hustle and expands on it. Violin has taken a far more prominent role on this album, setting a darker tone for the whole album. Where the first album basically assaulted audiences for thirty-some minutes with straight-up folk rock (Don't get me wrong, I love being assaulted with folk for 30-odd minutes.), Write A Letter builds an immersive atmosphere as well around it.
Write A Letter also grants an expanded role to backing vocals, offering guitar/banjo player Travis Hetman, newly-added violinist Kailyn Spencer and drummer Alex Dalton a chance to cop some spotlight. Lead singer Clayton Hagen's famously animalistic howls are tempered by his band mates' vocals. On "By the Sea," it's clear that the direction of Hagen's vox are guiding listeners into a more mature emotional landscape, varying between the aforementioned howls, tender croons and whiskey-stained whispers.
Perfectly produced and tightly written, even at this early stage, I have no problem calling Write A Letter my album of the summer.
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*Disclaimer: A member of this blog has a financial stake in this band, as they are signed to his label. But that doesn't mean that A Night in the Box isn't tighter than hell in hotpants.