“Indie? Narco-Country?” That’s the question posed by Berkeley quartet Winter’s Fall on their web site, and it’s one that could be asked of a number of the bands dominating alternative music today. In recent years, groups like My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes have emerged as the spiritual successors to Neil Young and his CSN brethren, mixing reverb-saturated vocals and twangy guitars into music that’s firmly rock-pop but with an introspective emotional core. From the moment you hear singer Peter Stanley’s voice, it’s apparent that Winter’s Fall draws from this same lineage, but the band’s first full length album, self-released earlier this year, features strong songwriting and a warm atmospheric feel that have it quickly becoming one of my favorite Bay Area records of the year.
Winter’s Fall was formed by Peter Stanley and childhood friend Keith Gidlund about two years ago, so it’s a little surprising how self-assured and fully realized the new CD sounds. The group’s 2007 Muddy & White EP hinted at this talent, featuring some good songs hampered by production that obscured their pop charms. Thankfully, a bunch of those tracks were rerecorded for the self-titled new record, and they’re markedly improved by a clean sound that perfectly captures the band’s swooning layers.