Background information. Some people say it provides welcome context to a review, others claim it's periphery information of little use in the grand scheme. What both parties agree on is that it both uses up space and serves as an icebreaker.
Emanating from the homeless capital of America, also known as San Francisco, the four-piece - comprising one set of brothers and one set of others - finally get around to giving us their follow-up to 2006 début Lonely Road Revival.
Sitting at the forefront of the burgeoning country-rock genre, the quartet bring the intensity and adrenaline of rock slash punk music to the usually introspective and slight country genre. The result could fell a barn, but they wouldn't feel remorse about it. The effect of the genre merge is diametrically opposed to the likes of 500 Miles to Memphis, who accentuate the punkier elements and utilise the expansive instrumentation and hootenanny atmosphere of country music. No, these are subdued rural yearnings unafraid to evacuate their shacks and brandish the flaming pitchforks.
The term, we believe, is "cowpunk".
Things have gotten a whole lot shinier since the début. The mish-mash of styles is still there, the letters from Hot Topic remain unopened, but still, there is a sense that the boys worked out how to distil their diverse influences through a much poppier catalyst this time around.
There is no better example than that of introductory piece "Safety of a Back". Blasting through frantic strumming to sublime slow-paced, and purposeful verses, there seems to be nary an instrument to which front-man Pete Frauenfelder's voice is not perfectly attuned. It's as if 'Frontier Land' discovered electricity, and Dinosaur Jr. Likely in that order.
Since last year was the year of mournful folk troubadour, it seems only logical that this year would take that template and inject it with full-band dynamics and a greater sense of fun. The best stepping stone - and grabber of much attention - is TR's transcendent ballad shanty "Chug Along". Resolutely dour in tone, it's a dirge in honour of the calamitous and recycling nature of life. Sort of a like a more downbeat incarnation of Modest Mouse's "Float On", without the fraudulent Jamaicans.
Regardless of how many times bands pull these genre contortions out of the bag, it is still genuinely surprising to witness something entirely new within the indie world. For those who liked the concept of Bon Iver, but shied away from the mawkishness, you may have just found your new favourite band.