thethermals_see_coverAfter an agonizing near-three-year wait, Portland’s The Thermals are releasing Now We Can See, the follow-up to their superb The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Following an amicable split from their longtime label Sub Pop, there was some early talk of Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster self-releasing the album, though in the end they signed with Kill Rock StarsNow We Can See was produced by John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Polyphonic Spree), and while the sound is crisper than past albums, it doesn’t take away from The Thermals’ signature raw sound, a sound that, for this album, Hutch dubbed “post-power-pop”.I suppose you could drop Now We Can See in the same category as The Body, The Blood, The Machine and call it a “loose” concept album. It perpetuates the story from TBTBTM, following its protagonists post-mortem. Album opener ‘When I Died’ equates death to devolution - “I took off my clothes/I took off my skin/started shedding my arms to start getting my fins/crawled to the sea that was calling for me so I could swim/swim the ocean wide”. The raucous ‘I Let It Go’ (one of my favorite tracks on the album) sees the narrator practically exultant in leaving life behind: “I looked my fear in the eyes/looked at the water below/I knew I could love or live/I let it go/I let it go”. The anthemic title track was released several weeks before the album, and while I wasn’t bowled over initially, it works really well in the context of the album. I could sit here and deliver play-by-play analysis for the remainder of the album and give examples of Hutch’s ability to weave intelligent lyrics into stories, but instead I’ll just urge you to check out the album (currently streaming on their MySpace page). A song worth noting, however, is ‘At The Bottom Of The Sea’, if for no other reason than it’s a *gasp* ballad. Very lovely, too.Now We Can See doesn’t show much musical growth, but that’s not a complaint. What holds The Thermals head and shoulders above their three-piece punk contemporaries are Hutch’s lyrics. And because his vocals are mixed up front, you can actually understand what he’s saying. So, not unsurprisingly, The Thermals have crafted another brilliant piece of work. This one is gonna sound real good this summer, in the car with the windows down.83%The Thermals on MySpace