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Reviews: The Life and Times' "Day II" b/w "Day III"

The Life and Times' 'Day II' b/w 'Day III'

Has it really been twelve years since Allen Epley of The Life and Times / Shiner released new music on seven-inch vinyl? 1999 is when the superb “Semper Fi” b/w “A Sailor’s Fate” came out on DeSoto, part of a banner year for the label which also included Juno’s This Is the Way It Goes & Goes & Goes, Burning Airlines’ Mission: Control!, the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I, and Faraquet’s “The Whole Thing Over” b/w “Call It Sane.” (Kim Coletta got a lot of my money that year.) I understand the drastic dip in interest in seven-inch singles during that span, but as I’ve noted before, Shiner excelled in the format. What I wouldn’t give for a seven-inch of the Japanese bonus tracks from The Egg (“Dirty Jazz” and “I’ll Leave Without You”) or the group’s cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow.” Seriously, I’ll probably dream about finding these items tonight.

With The Life and Times’ home studio all geared-out, it makes sense that Epley returns to trickling out a few new songs as they’re ready. Sometime later this year, The Life and Times will follow up 2009’s Tragic Boogie with their third full-length, but in the interim, they’ve issued “Day II” b/w “Day III” through Hawthorne Street Records (who’ve pressed vinyl editions of Suburban Hymns, The Magician, and Tragic Boogie). It marks the debut of the four-piece version of the group, having added Robert Culpepper Smith of Traindodge, Riddle of Steel, and Roma79 as on marimba (and keyboards, if these songs are any indication).

So how do “Day II” and “Day III” stack up with The Life and Times’ previous releases? Quite well: this single is a welcome, recommended return to (seven-inch) form. The former is an atmospheric rocker with Epley repeating “Nothing fools me” as the song shifts from a bass-heavy groove into a racing, riff-driven chorus. The latter calms things down considerably, pairing strummed acoustic guitars with woozy synth lines. The lyrics are intriguingly vague—“They said that mistakes were made / The very same mistakes we made / And history will eat itself”—fitting the song’s disorienting feel. Both of these songs rely on texture, but the strong riff of “Day II” and the lyrics of “Day III” provide stable footing.

Will these songs make the upcoming full-length? My guess is no. They stand alone nicely, perhaps acting as a bridge from Tragic Boogie to The Life and Times’ next album like Shiner’s “Sleep It Off” b/w “Half Empty” did between Lula Divinia and Starless. With any luck, The Life and Times has “Day IV” and “Day V” in the can, ready to hit colored wax in the fall after the LP’s out.