Artist: Winter Sounds

Album: Runner

There’s nothing too unusual about Winter Sounds’ Runner, so I’ll start with comparisons. They tend to be more rousing and uplifting in feel than the bands they resemble most; keep that in mind while mentally relating them to Big Country or For Against or Icicle Works, and you should be fine. Up to and including the ’80s-style big production, and adding the kinds of glistening keyboard sounds that guitar-bass-drums rock groups then would so often find their music supplemented with.

If you prefer more famous comparisons, they’ll be less accurate, but early U2 (especially Larry Mullen’s near-military drumming) would be relevant. So would the popper side of the Cure, Push and Just Like Heaven and In Between Days. Or the Smiths, if you stripped Morissey’s personality and lyrical acuity from How Soon is Now?  and There is a Light That Will Never Go Out, and as huge a loss as that would be, they’d still sound good. A more guitar-driven Coldplay are a solid reference point, especially if you can imagine them with a bit of Mew’s evasive subtlety and grace. Winter Sounds are more likely than those bands to drop down to something really quiet before roaring back; it’s a trick they’re pretty good at.

A theme that will recur in these reviews: it would be nice for you if I were better at following lyrics while listening. Then again, it would be nice if more bands were in the habit of providing lyric sheets (to MP3 buyers as well as to CD buyers). Winter Sounds make the sort of fervent songs meant to be sing along with. And while they’re not poets, the sentences I’ve picked out here and there imply that their fervent songs are also thoughtful and sincere and intelligent-enough. Runner might rank quite a bit higher on my list if they *made it easy for me to sing along*. But it wouldn’t surprise me if you handle that better than I do, anyway.

– Brian Block

To see the rest of our favorites, visit our Favorite Albums of 2012 page!