I'm embarrassed to admit that my first real exposure to this veteran band was this year (2004) when we saw them 2 consecutive nights on tour with our beloved Yo La Tengo. I guess I can be somewhat excused, since their last album was released 10 years ago! Anyway, Antietam rocked with more energy than 90% of bands half their age and just blew me away with their intensity and joy for performing, not to mention Tara Key's enormous guitar work. They had this new CD for sale at the shows and I eagerly bought a copy.
The production of these recordings, courtesy of Retsin-eer Tara Jane O'Neil, is muted and midrangy, giving the album a consistent feel of hushed intensity. With a different touch, these songs could feel big and heavy, but instead they occupy an intimate, airy space. Tara Key has the most gorgeous guitar tone, rich with distortion and delay, and she plays the best solos west of J. Mascis. Key's spouse Tim Harris provides basslines which double as melodic leads, which is something I always love, and plays a lovely cello as well. There are also flourishes of keyboard and trumpet and a guest appearance by old pal and collaborator Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, among others. Drummer Josh Madell contributes the poppiest track on the album, the lovely "Walk Away".
I'll definitely be seeking out more of Antietam's back catalog. Don't let this phenomenal band slip under your radar the way I did, and if they play in your town, run, do not walk! (mike.08.04)