From here I can touch the sun…
Part of the inner monologue of the ‘Major Tom’ like character in the song “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” this line can and should also represent the new found confidence and aspirations of the remaining two members of the Long Winters, Eric Corson and songwriter John Roderick. After two albums with Seattle based Barsuk records, Alaska native Roderick found himself with only one remaining bandmate before embarking upon a new path. What he’s done in Ultimatum is to graduate from the Michael Stipe comparisons, shed the numerous collaborators, and completely rely on his own strengths as a songwriter to make what is so far the strongest Long Winters release, which is amazing considering it’s an EP.
“The Commander Thinks Aloud” is the opener and the strongest song on the disc. The next chapter, somewhat, in the Major Tom / doomed space traveler epic, continued from David Bowie and Peter Schilling, is just as, if not more dramatic and expansive than its predecessors. When Roderick sings, “the crew compartment’s breaking up” layered with “this is all I wanted to bring home to you,” all of the isolationist, Cold War era space race fears come back, at least for those who remember them. The periodic `yays’ belie the sadness within perfectly. “Commander” appeared in a somewhat different form on The Future Soundtrack for America, but the EP version outshines its remixed cousin.
The title track is just as engaging, with a chorus that is hard to forget, and easy to sing along with:
My arms miss you / my hands miss you
The stars sing / I’ve got their song in my head
Roderick’s harmonies, melodies and words are fluid and flawless. After turns with former member Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger, as a back up singer for Death Cab for Cutie, and contributing to other Barsuk releases such as Nada Surf’s latest album, John Roderick has taken cues from each in finding his own footing. One can only hope that Ultimatum is to the Long Winters’ next full-length album what Wide Awake in America was to The Joshua Tree, and what Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks was to The Moon & Antarctica. In other words, it’s time for Roderick, a former college history professor, to throw his cap in the air; he’s graduated, and can stand proudly among those performers he’s worked alongside.